Google Backs HTC in Fight With Apple

Google denounced Apple’s move to ban HTC phones in the U.S., taking a stronger stance to defend its Android platform while carriers like T-Mobile join in the fray.

The Internet giant asked the International Trade Commission to block Apple’s requested injunction against HTC’s handsets, arguing the Taiwanese maker’s Android phones keep Apple from gaining a monopoly in the U.S. market.

“Eliminating all of the major Android device manufacturers from the U.S. — as Apple is attempting — would allow Apple to establish a virtual monopoly in the mobile device industry,” said Google to the ITC.

The ITC earlier found HTC guilty of infringing on two of Apple’s patents and is set to decide on December 6 whether to ban the phone maker’s devices from sale in the U.S. market.

Google’s statement ramps up the pressure in the Mountain View, Calif.-based company’s stance against Apple, and may set up future confrontation between the tech giants if Google become more outspoken in its support of Android handset manufacturers.

Until recently, the search giant has remained relatively passive while Apple sued handset makers like Samsung and HTC, in what some analysts call a proxy war on Google’s Android platform.

Google does not have as many patents as its Cupertino, Calif.-based neighbour and could not easily come to its phone makers’ aid in court.

But its $12.5 billion Motorola purchase gave Google 14,000 patents, nine of which it gave to HTC in September, enabling the Taiwanese company to lodge counter complaints against Apple in a Delaware court and with the ITC.

The search giant also bought 1,000 IBM patents that may soon serve a similar purpose.

Google’s heightened involvement in the patent wars between Apple and Android manufacturers may gain even more significance if carriers like T-Mobile continue to support it.

T-Mobile weighed in against Apple’s move to ban HTC devices as well, arguing it needs the handsets to keep up its sales and requesting at least a four to six-month transition period if the ITC vote in favour of an injunction.

The carrier, along with competitor Verizon, made similar statements regarding its reliance on Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphone and tablets, which Apple seeks to ban in the U.S.

Google and Apple are running a close race for first place in the mobile market. Android currently leads in market share, but Apple leads in revenue and app sales.

As the two tech giants attempt to close the gap between them, often using courtroom battles to argue their cases, their rivalry looks to become more heated, especially given Google’s increasingly direct involvement.

This post originally appeared at Mobiledia.

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