Apple likes to sue other handset makers for patent infringement. The companies on the receiving end of Apple's legal tactics reciprocate with their own patent lawsuits. The resulting patent wars exploded into a mess that hasn't been remotely cleaned up over the last two years. During that time, Apple either settled or won the majority of their patent lawsuits. HTC might just be the first to strike back in U.S. courts and win.
HTC brought a suit against Apple last year claiming that the company violated two of their patents for data transmission in wireless devices. HTC's lawsuit was a direct response to Apple bringing a lawsuit against them that resulted in their phones being banned from sale in the U.S. Apple attempted to have HTC's patent lawsuit thrown out, but a U.S. judge says the patents are probably valid.
Bloomberg reports that U.S. ITC Judge Thomas Pender said that HTC's arguments are "clear and convincing." This may lead to trouble for Apple as Pender says that he has to be "pretty darn certain a U.S. patent is invalid." In other words, Apple has their work cut out for them if they're going to prove that HTC's patents are invalid in the U.S.
The patents in question, according to HTC, refer to 4G LTE signals. The new iPad uses LTE technology and the iPhone 5 will most assuredly use the wireless signal as well. HTC could use a successful ruling in their favor to have both products banned from sale in the U.S. unless Apple pays them a licensing fee for the patent or removes LTE functionality altogether.
In their defense, Apple says that HTC's patents don't relate to 4G technology whatsoever. The patents were bought from ADC Communications. Apple claims that ADC was using the patents for work that began in the 1990s. That very well could be the case as HTC said that patents covered Wi-Fi technology before changing their claims to say that they covered 4G LTE technology.
A lot of embittered Apple haters would probably love to see HTC win this case, but it won't solve anything. Fighting fire with fire is the only way tech companies can proceed because policy makers won't concede that there's a problem with the current patent system. The winners and losers of the tech world should be decided by consumers, not judges and lawyers.