HTC seeks to block Apple imports

WASHINGTON—HTC Corp., Asia’s second-biggest maker of smartphones, filed a patent-related complaint at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) that seeks to block imports of Apple inc.’s iPhone, iPad and Mac computers.

The complaint filed on Tuesday in Washington claims Apple is infringing three patents related to wireless technology and follows a case lodged last year at the ITC that made similar claims. Taiwan-based HTC also sued Apple this week in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, over the three patents.

“Apple needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its products,” HTC general counsel Grace Lei said in a statement. “We are taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most important our customers that use HTC phones.”

The two companies are part of a larger battle among smartphone makers looking to fight copycats and thwart competition in a market that’s projected to reach $206.6 billion this year by researcher IHS inc. Apple, the world’s biggest smartphone maker, has filed patent cases against handset makers using Google inc.’s Android operating system, including Samsung Electronics co., Motorola Mobility Holdings inc. and HTC.

“Competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours,” Kristin Huguet, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, said in response to the HTC lawsuit.

In Germany the ban on a Samsung tablet computer across Europe was lifted after the German court that granted Apple an injunction last week scaled back the ruling to within national borders.

The iPad maker isn’t allowed to enforce its August 9 injunction outside of Germany against the South Korea-based company, the Dusseldorf Regional Court decided on Tuesday. but the ban on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany stands, court spokesman Peter Schuetz said in an interview.

“The judges decided to limit the enforceability for now because there are doubts whether a German court has so a wide a jurisdiction over a company based in Korea,” Schuetz said.

Earlier this week, Google moved to protect itself from lawsuits related to Android with a $12.5-billion agreement to buy Motorola Mobility. The acquisition would give Google at least 17,000 more patents.

HTC also has used acquisitions to bolster its position, agreeing in July to buy S3 Graphics co. after an ITC judge found that Apple’s Mac OS X computer system violated two S3 patents.

HTC, which said in its latest complaint that it generated about $5 billion in US sales last year, claims Apple infringes a patent for portable devices that integrate features of a personal digital assistant and two patents related to networking to better combine telephones and video services.

The company targets the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac computers, Apple TV and the AirPort and Time Capsule wireless-network equipment.

The ITC is a quasijudicial agency that arbitrates trade disputes and has the power to block imports of products found to violate US patents. The agency typically takes 15 to 18 months to complete reviews, and HTC’s lawsuit in Delaware would likely be put on hold if the commission investigates the complaint.

A judge with the ITC is scheduled to release his findings in the earlier HTC case against Apple in September.

Last month a different trade judge found that HTC infringed two Apple patents. If that decision is upheld, it could lead to an import ban on certain HTC phones. Apple filed a separate complaint this month targeting HTC’s phones and new Flyer tablet computers.

Meanwhile, Samsung welcomes the German court’s decision and is “fully committed” to providing mobile devices to the market without disruption, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Tuesday’s decision, however, is temporary, as is the August 9 injunction. The court has scheduled a hearing for August 25 in the case, after which it may change either ruling.

The Dusseldorf Regional Court will likely issue a ruling within three weeks of the hearing, according to spokesman Schuetz. either party can appeal the decision.

The hearing comes days after Samsung agreed not to introduce the US version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia. Samsung’s product infringes 10 Apple patents, including the “look and feel” of the iPad, Steven Burley, a lawyer for Apple, told a Federal Court in Sydney on August 1.

A European sales ban for the Tab 10.1 would be a blow to Samsung’s target of boosting its annual tablet sales more than fivefold this year. The company, which doesn’t disclose shipment figures, probably sold about 1.6 million Galaxy Tabs in 2010, according to an estimate by NH Investment & Securities co. in March.

In Photo: an Associated Press reporter demonstrates the camera on the HTC myTouch 4G Slide smartphone from T-Mobile during a product review in San Francisco on August 10. (AP)

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