HTC to Apple: We Built a Touchscreen Phone Before You Did
The surprise HTC expressed earlier this month at being sued by Apple has finally turned into something a bit more substantial: “strong disagreement.” The company issued a statement this morning denying Apple’s allegations and vowed to fight the lawsuit. The gist: HTC has been making phones far longer than Apple, including a touchscreen device called the XDA (right) that predates the iPhone by about five years.
“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,” HTC CEO Peter Chou said in the statement.
“From day one, HTC has focused on creating cutting-edge innovations that deliver unique value for people looking for a smartphone,” Chou continued. “In 1999 we started designing the XDA and T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition, our first touch-screen smartphones, and they both shipped in 2002 with more than 50 additional HTC smartphone models shipping since then.”
The statement continues with a list of HTC’s technological firsts:
- First Windows PDA (1998)
- First Windows Phone (June 2002)
- First 3G CDMA EVDO smartphone (October 2005)
- First gesture-based smartphone (June 2007)
- First Google (GOOG) Android smartphone (October 2008)
- First 4G WiMax smartphone (November 2008)
The implication here seems to be that these “firsts” somehow negate Apple’s (AAPL) claim that the company violated 20 of its patents. And while it’s certainly possible that this is the case, it’s hard to accept HTC’s argument without a list of patents to back it up. Harder still when HTC says nothing about its legal strategy for dealing with Apple’s assault.
Does HTC plan to countersue? Does the company have IP of its own with which to mount a defense? Or will it simply take Apple to the mat with its “strong disagreement” and toothless positioning statements like the one above?
Interesting to contrast HTC’s response to the Apple’s suit to Palm’s (PALM) immediate and aggressive riposte to Apple COO Tim Cook’s comments about companies that infringe on its iPhone intellectual property:
“Palm has a long history of innovation that is reflected in our products and robust patent portfolio, and we have long been recognized for our fundamental patents in the mobile space. If faced with legal action, we are confident that we have the tools necessary to defend ourselves.”
UPDATE: In an interview with Reuters, Jason Mackenzie, vice president for HTC’s U.S. business, said HTC plans to issue a formal response to Apple’s claims in a matter of weeks. He did not say what form that response will take.