Apple Goes After HTC In Lawsuit Over 20 iPhone Patents

Apple is using its strong patent portfolio to fight iPhone competitors in court. Its latest target is HTC. Apple has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the cell phone manufacturer. The suit involves “20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.”

Steve Jobs is quoted in a press release saying: “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. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” The lawsuit itself is not available yet online. We’ve asked Apple for a copy.

The lawsuit could be a way to go after Android, although Android is not mentioned in the press release. HTC manufactures some of the most successful Android handsets, from the first G1 up to the latest Nexus One. HTC’s touchscreen Android phones are the most similar to the iPhone. If that is the case, the lawsuit is a shot across Android’s bow and a warning to all Android manufacturers.

This is not the first time Apple has gone after a mobile phone competitor. It is involved in similar patent litigation with Nokia. That lawsuit is more about Apple trying to get Nokia to license its patents. And the HTC suit may have the same motivation.

But the fact that the lawsuit was filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) as well as in a U.S. District Court in Delaware suggests that Apple is really going for the jugular. “The ITC does not award damages,” says Peter Toren, a patent lawyer with New York City law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. The only remedy the ITC can award is an order to stop the importation of the infringing product. HTC is based in Taiwan.

Apple thinks it owns the concept of the touchscreen Web phone and it wants other cell phone makers to pay for copying the iPhone or to stop altogether. Who will Apple sue next? Motorola? Palm? Research in Motion?

Update: The complaint is embedded below and described further here.