HTC Countersues Apple over iPhone Technology, Seeking to Block U.S. Sales

Google's Nexus One
Google's Nexus One

The rapidly intensifying mobile wars went to code red on Wednesday. Emerging cell-phone powerhouse HTC, a key partner in Google's (GOOG) exploding Android mobile ecosystem, filed a patent lawsuit against iPhone-maker Apple (AAPL). The lawsuit comes two months after Apple filed its own patent suit against HTC in a move widely seen as a proxy assault on Google's mobile ambitions. Among the many handsets HTC manufactures are Google's Nexus One (pictured) and Verizon Wireless's Droid Incredible, both of which run on the search giant's Android operating system.

HTC's complaint, which was filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission and involves five patents, aims "to halt the importation and sale of the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States."

"We are taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most importantly our customers that use HTC phones," Jason Mackenzie, an HTC vice president, said in a statement. "HTC believes the industry should be driven by healthy competition and innovation that offer consumers the best, most accessible mobile experiences possible."

Wednesday's lawsuit by HTC, which has been a key partner of Google, significantly ratchets up the competitive tension in the mobile market, and it represents a vivid sign of how high the stakes are for the mobile combatants.

As Android Gains, Apple Sues

HTC's lawsuit is a clear retaliatory strike against Apple, which sued the Taiwan-based mobile company on March 2, citing 20 patent infringements related to the iPhone, including aspects of the touch screen, user interface and user-sensing technology. Apple's lawsuit specifically referenced Google's Android mobile operating system, which has made remarkable inroads over the last six months.

"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," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said at the time. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

Apple asked the court for "an injunction against making, using, selling, and/or offering for sale within the United States, and/or importing into the United States, any products and/or services that infringe the Asserted Patents."

In response, HTC issued a statement saying: "HTC values patent rights and their enforcement but is also committed to defending its own technology innovations."

Google has made clear that it's backing its partner. "We are not a party to this lawsuit," Google said in a statement, referring to the Apple complaint. "However, we stand behind our Android operating system and the partners who have helped us to develop it."