HTC suspends UK smartphone sales ‘out of abundance of caution’

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HTC has said that it decided to temporarily pull smartphones from sale in the UK “out of an abundance of caution” amid an intellectual property dispute.

All handsets, including the HTC U12+ and Exodus 1, recently appeared as “out of stock” on their UK website while other countries still show smartphones available to buy.

The Taiwanese firm has confirmed that the move is the result of an infringement claim that it is currently investigating with relation to “a single handset model”.

According to Munich-based intellectual property rights firm IPCom, HTC was supposed to implement a workaround on UK handsets for allegedly infringing one of its patents but they say a test on the Desire 12 earlier this year showed that it had not been put in place.

“We were disappointed to learn that, after failing to take out a FRAND (fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory) licence for the patent and stalling negotiations for over a decade, HTC displayed further disregard for the law by contravening a UK Court ruling,” said IPCom managing director Pio Suh.

“The technology industry is dependent upon the fair, transparent and legal use of IP, and the recent development with HTC highlights the impact on those businesses which don’t play by the rules.”

Exodus 1
The Exodus 1 blockchain smartphone is among the products temporarily withdrawn by HTC in the UK (HTC/PA)

Other products, such as its 5G hub and Vive virtual reality headset, have not been affected by the move.

In a statement, HTC said: “As a leading innovator, HTC takes intellectual property issues very seriously.

“We are proactively investigating an infringement claim by a third party with respect to a single handset model.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily stopped sales of other HTC smartphones in the UK while we verify that all handsets have the required workaround.

“We will take the necessary steps to resume sales in due course.”

IPCom says it is now in discussions with Chinese tech maker Xiaomi for allegedly infringing the same patent, and hope to “conclude the matter and avoid it going the way of HTC”.

HTC reached a billion dollar agreement with Google in 2017, which saw around 2,000 engineers join the US firm to work on the Google Pixel – but it has continued to develop its own smartphones.

Chris Price
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