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HTC Swipes Back At Apple In Patent Dispute

JESSICA MINTZ

SEATTLE (AP) â¿¿ Taiwanese cell phone maker HTC Corp. is filing a patent complaint against Apple Inc. over its popular gadgets, escalating a legal dispute as new smart phones are threatening the iPhone's supremacy.

HTC, which makes the Droid Incredible and other phones running competing Android software from Google Inc., filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission on Wednesday seeking to block U.S. sales of the iPhone, iPod and iPad devices.

Apple filed its own lawsuits against HTC in March, saying HTC's cell phones violate 20 of Apple's iPhone patents. Apple's complaints were made before the trade commission and in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del.

None of the complaints is likely to block sales of any products any time soon. Patent disputes are common among technology companies and often take years to resolve. The cases often lead to licensing agreements rather than outright bans on imports, as HTC is seeking in its complaint. Apple's products are typically made overseas.

The wild success of the first iPhone, which launched in 2007, prompted other cell phone makers to rush out touch-screen smart phones of their own in a bid to lure consumers, not just business users attached to their BlackBerry phones.

At the end of 2009, iPhones made up about 14 percent of smart phones sold worldwide, according to the research group Gartner Inc. Apple closed the gap with BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd., which had 20 percent of sales. But Android phones, while accounting for only 4 percent of sales, grew at a faster rate than Apple last year.

In the filing, HTC said Apple violates five patents. In one, the technology helps prolong battery life by letting the phone system operate independently from the gadget's other functions. The phone might be in "sleep" mode while other programs are active.

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