Apple Files Fresh HTC Lawsuit

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Apple has filed another complaint against HTC, as its Samsung dispute escalates

Apple has filed a second patent infringement lawsuit against HTC with the International Trade Commission (ITC), adding newer HTC devices to its case and utilising a different set of patents, according to the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

Meanwhile, Samsung has asked the US District Court for the Northern District of California to disqualify some or all of Apple’s external lawyers in the patent dispute between the two companies in that court.

Apple counsel ‘to leave’

And, amidst Apple’s widening web of patent warfare related to mobile devices, the company’s chief patent counsel is to leave the company, according to sources cited by Reuters on Tuesday.

Richard Lutton Jr., is to leave the company “soon”, but Reuters’ sources did not provide a reason, the report said. BJ Watrous, a former deputy general counsel with HP, is now listed as Apple’s chief IP counsel on his LinkedIn web page.

Apple’s new HTC complaint was filed with the ITC on Friday. Apple currently has more than 40 lawsuits related to the Android mobile operating system in course.

In June Apple sued HTC in a US federal court citing patents not in its original ITC complaint.

Apple cited five patents in the case, three of which it has also cited in a patent case in federal court.

The complaint follows a March 2010 ITC case filed by Apple against HTC, but that first case doesn’t appear to be on solid ground, according to industry observers.

Apple ‘hedging its bets’

Blogger Florian Mueller noted that in April the ITC delivered an opinion favourable to HTC in that case. In this second complaint, therefore, Apple appears to be hedging its bets, Mueller said.

“The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) could still rule in Apple’s favour: the staff recommendation is, after all, just an opinion,” Mueller wrote. “However, a negative ITC staff recommendation does not bode well to say the least. I’m sure Apple will fight hard to make the original complaint succeed but doesn’t want to depend on the outcome of that case.”

Mueller noted that HTC recently agreed to acquire S3 Graphics, which currently appears to be winning its own patent infringement lawsuit against Apple.

The new complaint adds newer HTC products, including the Flyer tablet and Droid handset.

HTC rejects claims

HTC said it rejected Apple’s claims.

“HTC is disappointed at Apple’s constant attempts at litigations instead of competing fairly in the market,” said HTC general counsel Grace Lei, in a statement. “HTC strongly denies all infringement claims raised by Apple in the past and present and reiterates our determination and commitment to protect our intellectual property rights.”

At the time of its first FTC filing Apple said it was defending its legitimate rights.

“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it,” Steve Jobs said at the time. “We’ve decided to do something about it.”

The HTC Flyer, introduced in March, is a 7-inch Android tablet powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm processor, running Android 2.3 Gingerbread and including pen input.

Lawyer ‘conflict of interest’

In Apple’s wide-ranging Samsung intellectual property dispute, Samsung has asked the US District Court for the Northern District of California to disqualify some of Apple’s external lawyers on the grounds of a conflict of interest.

Samsung’s 20-page motion asks that the law firm of Bridges & Mavrakakis be barred from the case because five of its lawyers previously represented Samsung when they were with another firm, Kirkland & Ellis. This fact “taints all attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis through imputation”, according to the filing.

In addition Samsung demands that Apple’s two other law firms involved in the case “provide affidavits confirming they have not received any Samsung confidential information from attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis” or be disqualified as well.

Samsung is asking for a court hearing on the issue on 18 August.

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