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Summary:

Smartphone maker HTC has been largely silent since hit by Apple with the suit claiming patent infringement. The company is not being silent any longer and sent over a statement addressing its position. HTC is declaring that when it comes to touch phones, HTC was first.

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Smartphone maker HTC has been largely silent since hit by Apple’s suit claiming patent infringement. The company is not satisfied with being silent any longer and sent over a statement addressing its position. Basically they want to remind everyone that when it comes to smartphones with color touchscreens, HTC was first. The statement doesn’t address the Apple suit specifically, but it is seems HTC is preparing to embark on a course calling into question the validity of Apple’s patents. That would be the logical assumption of the “we were first” path.

“HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself. HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible,” said Peter Chou, chief executive officer, HTC Corporation. “From day one, HTC has focused on creating cutting-edge innovations that deliver unique value for people looking for a smartphone. In 1999 we started designing the XDA.

The O2 XDA by HTC was the first 3.5-inch color touch screen smartphone in the world in 2002, and the T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition by HTC was the first 3.5-inch color touch screen smartphone in the United States in 2002. [sic] Our first touch-screen smartphones, and they both shipped in 2002 with more than 50 additional HTC smartphone models shipping since then.”

HTC has a point about having an “iPhone-like” smartphone long before the iPhone shipped, but it may very well come down to proving the Windows Mobile phones of yesteryear are similar to Apple’s phone. Most folks familiar with the HTC/Apple situation believe that Apple is really going after Android, as HTC is the largest maker of Android phones in addition to Windows Mobile. This whole situation is not clear, and lots of eyes will be watching it unfold.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

  1. My take on this is, It doesn’t matter who comes out with the first device. It’s who owns the patent. If ever Apple owns a patent for what they are suing HTC for, The “we were first” defense will be debunked.

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    1. Of course you are right.
      However, it is common that many software based patents on so called “Inventions” are being invalidated because of prior art. Prior art does not have to be from the same company.
      In an ideal world, this would happen before patents are granted, but currently this is not what’s happening in the USA.

      I think reading the following links should help understanding the issues regarding patenting software that is nothing more than vague business ideas:

      http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/softwarepatents.xml

      http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index.html

      You can have a look at the following project about some of the recent patents busted:
      http://w2.eff.org/patent/

      For instance compare the SIFT invention algorithm with “Unlocking A Device By Performing Gestures On An Unlock Image” “Invention”.

      SIFT algorithm:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scale-invariant_feature_transform

      When people criticize software patents, this is not about complex algorithms, end result of many years of research and implementation. It is mainly about trivial ideas presented in vague, technical writing.
      Fortunately in Europe attempts to bring such insanity have not succeeded yet mainly thanks to newer EU nations.

      In conclusion, rather than Apple threatening competition, it is a good to see these claims tested under the law. A sanity check may end up with good results for competition and consumers.
      HTC is also member of a defensive patent pool named RPX which also has members such as Nokia, Samsung, LG, Cisco, HP, Intel, Microsoft and others. It will be interesting to see how this works.

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    2. GoodThings2Life Thursday, March 18, 2010

      My take on this is that it doesn’t matter what your take is, it matters what US Patent Law states.

      In this case, prior art/use supercedes a patent, and patents should not be awarded to companies where prior art exists. Apples patents are, according to HTC, invalid as a result, and therefore the case is invalid as well.

      This is definitely an attempt by Apple to take on Google by shooting them in the kneecap since they can’t get away with shooting them in the head. Big companies try this sort of thing all the time, and it always ends up in a settlement.

      Apple winning this case would be a very, very bad thing for consumers, because Android, Blackberry, WebOS, and Windows Phone would all be affected despite the fact that the concepts have existed for years before Apple even came to the table.

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  2. You cannot create a patent for something that is already on the market. If you were able to then someone would have patented the wheel or the combustion engine. It is not possible. So if HTC proves they had it first then Apple’s patent is void.

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  3. Curtis Carmack Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Jethro,

    Not if HTC’s use of the technology preceded Apple’s patent application. I think that’s what James is alluding to — if HTC commercialized the technology first, it would be “prior art” that would invalidate Apple’s patents. Should be an interesting food fight, in any case.

    Curt

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  4. I will give you guys a better understanding of what I said. Marconi is the first to come up with the radio. For many years, He was credited for it. The problem is, The components that he used was patented to Tesla. After many years, They gave the radio patent to Tesla and gave him credit for it’s invention.

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    1. Curtis Carmack Thursday, March 18, 2010

      The analogy in this case is that Marconi then challenges Tesla’s patents and they are invalidated if Marconi came up with the idea first and publicized it (whether by commercializing it or by publishing specs, etc.; this wouldn’t be possible if he kept the inner workings a secret). Also, the law has changed considerably since Tesla’s days — we no longer have a true “first to invent” system. Our system is much closer to the European “first to file” system. In this case, that’s not what matters, however.

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      1. Actually, Marconi and Tesla was on a race to whoever’s gonna come up with the radio. Marconi beat Tesla to it. But like I said, Marconi wouldn’t be able to invent the radio if he did not use the components that are patented to Tesla.

        Yes, I was leaning towards “first to file”. If Apple filed for the patent and it was awarded to them, Then HTC “we were first” to release arguement will be debunked.

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  5. Rajneesh Garg Thursday, March 18, 2010

    For those referring to Radio patents, let it be known that Marconi was not the first one to work on the principle…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_of_radio

    Moral of the story:???

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