Apple sues rival HTC for infringing iPhone patents

Legal hammer

Apple has filed a lawsuit against Taiwanese mobile phone maker HTC, accusing it of "stealing" its technology.

The suit was filed with both a district court in Delaware and the US International Trade Commission, which regulates the import of products into the country. It sees HTC accused of infringing 20 patents held by Apple relating to "the iPhone's user interface, underlying architecture and hardware", and seeks a lasting injunction stopping HTC from selling any phones containing the disputed technology in the US.

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it," Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said in a statement. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

HTC has been steadily increasing its profile in the US, largely thanks to its close relationship with Google and its Android operating system. To date, HTC has produced more Android handsets than any other manufacturer, and supplies the hardware for Google's own Nexus One smartphone. Many analysts have already speculated that the suit may be directed more at Google and Android than HTC itself.

Among the patents Apple says have been infringed are several relating to touch screen interfaces, including the pinch zoom function seen on the latest HTC handsets. While touch technology itself isn't patented by Apple, many of the most common touch-related interface functions were first seen on 2007's iPhone.

Apple has submitted more than 700 pages of documentation to support its claims, and cites a number of HTC-made handsets, including Android-powered handsets such as the Nexus One and several devices running Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system.

The suit marks the latest blow to Apple's deteriorating relationship with Google, which it feels has directly targeted its mobile business through the development of Android and its own-brand handset. In a brief statement, Google says it "stands behind our Android operating system and the partners who have helped us to develop it". HTC itself has said it isn't willing to comment until it had examined the suit in more detail.

Apple is also currently locked in a legal battle with Nokia, with the Finnish phone giant saying Apple infringed on its patents. Apple has since countersued.