Sendo patent suit hinges on HTC hardware

The intellectual property suit that mobile phone developer Sendo Holdings PLC initiated Thursday against mobile operator Orange SA actually centres around technology developed by a Taiwanese manufacturer supplying handhelds to Orange, a representative for Sendo said Friday.

Taiwan-based High Tech Computing (HTC) Corp. supplies handhelds for the Orange SPV Smartphone, which Sendo claims, infringes on its patent related to the design of a circuit board. However, since HTC is located in Taiwan Sendo cannot sue it over a U.K. patent, a Sendo representative said Friday.

Instead, the company is suing Orange in the U.K., which imports the HTC-made phone and sells it under its SPV Smartphone brand. The Orange SPV Smartphone runs Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Powered Smartphone software.

“It’s regrettable, but we cannot sue HTC because it is based in Taiwan,” Sendo spokeswoman Marijke van Hooren said Friday.

Dai Davis, a consultant on IT law for U.K. law firm Nabarro Nathanson, said that it is common for companies to sue importers, especially when they have no patent for the technology in the country where it is manufactured.

A representative for Orange said Friday that the company “strongly denies any impropriety” and that it is contacting the parties involved in the building of the handheld.

But even if Orange did not know about the alleged patent infringement, it could still be found culpable, Davis said, because patents are published and considered public knowledge.

“Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to patents,” Davis said.

Representatives for HTC were not available to comment on the matter.

Philippine mobile phone company Smart Communications Inc. launched a Smartphone using HTC handhelds earlier this year and German operator T-Mobile Deutschland GmbH was also set to launch an HTC-made Smartphone but delayed the rollout last month, citing service quality issues. Both phones run Windows Powered Smartphone software.

It is unclear, however, whether the phones used by T-Mobile and Smart Communications use the same circuit boards Sendo is laying claim to or whether Sendo has patents in those countries.

Sendo has also engaged in legal wrangling with Microsoft, and launched a suit against the software maker last December, alleging that the company had a “secret plan” to steal its technology during a development partnership.

Microsoft countersued earlier this year, denying the claims. Meanwhile, Sendo has announced plans to launch an intelligent or “smart” phone, which incorporates a range of applications and digital technology, running software provided by Nokia Corp.

With so much legal volleying, it remains to be seen how the market and the rollout of Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphones in particular will be affected.

A Microsoft representative in the U.K. declined to comment on Sendo’s latest suit Friday.