HTC suspends UK smartphone sales amid patent dispute

HTC has suspended the sale of its smartphones in the UK, as part of an ongoing patent dispute.

Non-practising entity IPCom claimed that, as a result of its claim of patent infringement, HTC had indicated it would suspend the sale and importation of the recently launched Desire 12 handset to the UK market, in addition to taking steps to stop sales of all of its mobile devices in the UK.

Back in April 2015, Judge Colin Birss ruled that European patent (UK) number 1,841,268, owned by IPCom, was valid in an amended form but not infringed by HTC’s smartphones.

The patent, a standard-essential patent (SEP), governs how a handset connects to a network and prioritises emergency calls.

Two years later, the court granted IPCom’s appeal against the decision. To resolve the dispute, the court approved a workaround, with HTC stating that it would only sell mobiles with this workaround on the UK market.

However, IPCom claims that it carried out tests on the Desire 12 earlier this year and found that the workaround hasn’t been implemented, prompting IPCom to assert that HTC was still infringing.

Pio Suh, managing director of IPCom, said:

We were disappointed to learn that, after failing to take out a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licence for the patent and stalling negotiations for over a decade, HTC displayed further disregard for the law by contravening a UK court ruling.

HTC’s UK online store currently lists all of its smartphones models as out of stock, despite the phones being available in other countries including France and Germany.

HTC’s 5G home hub router isn’t affected by this patent dispute remains on sale.

Xiaomi litigation

IPCom is also in discussions with Xiaomi regarding its use of the same patent. Xiaomi’s flagship Mi Mix 3 mobile, which was released in the UK earlier this year, allegedly uses the same SEP.

IPCom said that while it is also involved in ongoing negotiations with the Xiaomi company, after having offered it a FRAND licence, it has also filed a complaint at the UK High Court.

Suh said:

“Launching in a new region means adhering to the laws of that region, and engaging with other players in an open, cooperative manner. A failure to do so—and a failure to obtain the necessary patent licences beforehand—is a risky move by Xiaomi, and one that also puts retailers selling its products in the firing line.”

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