With its lackluster patent portfolio backing it against infringement suits, Taiwan-based original equipment manufacturer HTC is a sitting duck for legal bullets, arrows, and other awfully sharp legal objects. The latest bullet to hit HTC was a patent infringement complaint lodged by Apple against the popular Android device manufacturer. If the ITC rules in favor of Apple, the decision will result in the complete cessation of sales of the infringing devices in the United States.

Apple filed a complaint last week with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging that HTC infringed 5 patents that Apple owns. Three of the patents-in-suit were also used by Apple in its federal-court lawsuit against Samsung.

Apple’s ITC complaint against HTC is the latter’s second punch from Apple. The first complaint, involving over ten Apple patents, was hurled by Apple against HTC in March last year.

Florian Mueller of the FOSS Patents blog lists the following patents as the object of Apple’s complaint versus HTC:

  1. U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915 on “application programming interfaces for scrolling operations” (Apple is asserting this one against Samsung in a federal lawsuit)
  2. U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381 on “list scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display” (Apple asserts this one in its federal lawsuit against Samsung and, very importantly, in its motion for a preliminary injunction)
  3. U.S. Patent No. 7,084,859 on “programmable tactile touch screen displays and man-machine interfaces for improved vehicle instrumentation and telematics” (not previously asserted)
  4. U.S. Patent No. 7,920,129 on a “double-sided touch-sensitive panel with shield and drive combined layer” (asserted against Samsung in Apple’s first amended complaint in its federal lawsuit)
  5. U.S. Patent No. 6,956,564 on “portable computers” (not previously asserted; Apple acquired this one from British Telecom in 2008)

The infringement accusation from Apple is targeted at HTC’s Android-based smartphones and tablet:

  • HTC Droid Incredible
  • HTC Droid Incredible 2
  • HTC Wildfire
  • HTC T-Mobile mytouch 3G
  • HTC T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide
  • HTC T-Mobile G1
  • HTC T-Mobile G2
  • HTC Evo 4G
  • HTC Aria
  • HTC Desire
  • HtC Hero
  • HTC Merge
  • HTC Inspire 4G
  • HTC Evo Shift 4G
  • HTC Thunderbolt
  • HTC Thunderbolt 4G
  • HTC Flyer

This latest suit brings the total count of Android-related lawsuits to 48, according to Mueller.

Meanwhile, HTC doesn’t appear cowered. Dismayed that “Apple has resorted to competition in the courts rather than the market place,” HTC will continue to “vehemently deny all of Apple’s past and present claims against it and will continue to protect and defend its own intellectual property as it has already done this year,” said HTC general counsel Grace Lei.

Apple seems to be carrying a big legal stick and going after many rivals. Do you think it’s really just about protecting its intellectual property? Or is it about Android (in whole or in part)? Or is it about something else?

Image credit: Polina Sergeeva (Flickr)