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Apple wants to squelch five Google patents issued to HTC

In its latest legal salvo, the iPhone maker has asked the ITC to dismiss five patents that Google issued to HTC last year.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Apple has fired another shot at HTC in its patent wars with the Taiwanese mobile phone maker.

A motion filed by Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission is seeking to throw out five patents HTC received from Google last year.

Part of an ITC document discovered online by Foss Patents' Florian Mueller said that Apple is calling for a partial termination of the investigation with respect to the patents due to lack of standing.

Translating the legalese into English, that means Apple believes HTC has no right to file a lawsuit or an ITC complaint over the patents in question.

The five patents relate to wireless technology and are part of a second ITC complaint issued by HTC against Apple last September. HTC also filed a federal lawsuit at the same time, accusing Apple of violating those same patents.

The new ITC motion filed by Apple is still confidential, so further details were unavailable.

But Mueller cited two possible reasons behind Apple's thinking. First, HTC bought the patents from Google just a week before it filed the ITC complaint, so the timing raises a red flag. Second, HTC may be seen as a "proxy" filing the complaint on behalf of Google.

"Google itself would definitely have been unable to fulfill the domestic industry requirement for those patents, simply because of its business model," Mueller said.

A couple of months after the filing, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt voiced his support for the company's Android partners, particularly HTC.

"We tell our partners, including the ones here in Taiwan, we will support them," Schmidt said at the time. "For example we have been supporting HTC in its dispute with Apple because we think that the Apple thing is not correct."

In essence, Google is using partners like HTC as a front to file lawsuits, according to Mueller.

"Acquiring a bunch of patents in week X and requesting an ITC import ban over them in week X+1 shows that HTC is merely a proxy, and the use of proxies is irreconcilable with the ITC's mission," Mueller added.

CNET contacted Apple, HTC, and Google for comment. An HTC spokesman said the company has no comment on the matter. We'll update the story if we receive a response from Apple or Google.

Apple's patent war with HTC also ramped up after a report yesterday saying that U.S. customs officials are delaying the import of certain HTC phones.

The HTC One X and Evo 4G LTE are being held up indefinitely by customs agents over unresolved patent infringement issues with Apple, HTC confirmed.

Updated 12:00 p.m. PT with response from HTC.