Why? The handsets have been found to be infringing an IPCom (an IP management and patent licensing company) patent after the firm tested the Desire 12 earlier this year and found it to not be using a previously agreed workaround.
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This story starts back in 2015, when IPCom took the phone maker to court, claiming HTC had “infringed upon IPCom's Patent 100A, a standard essential patent (SEP), which governs how a handset connects to a network, prioritises emergency calls, and adheres to internationally recognised telecoms standards.”
The court ruled in IPCom's favour and HTC agreed to a workaround sanctioned by the court for all future handsets. Fast forward to 2019 and it appears that workaround is missing from the Desire 12, and potentially other HTC smartphones.
At the time of writing the HTC Desire 12 is still on sale at Littlewoods, Very and Amazon, which IPCom believes is because the products are being distributed from warehouses outside of the UK – so the devices may not ever be completely unavailable.
HTC's own website, however, doesn't have stock of any of its devices listed. You also won't find any HTC handsets available at EE, Vodafone, O2, Three or Carphone Warehouse, although these retailers had stopped selling the Taiwanese firm's devices before this patent dispute broke.
HTC's smartphone business has been going through a trying time recently, and as a result it's seeing its devices ranged in fewer places, but this latest development will do it no favours.
HTC's 5G home hub router isn't affected by this patent dispute and will remain on sale.
Xiaomi in the cross hairs
Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi may find itself in hot water very soon as well, as IPCom claims the recently released Mi Mix 3 “has also been found…to utilise the patent, and which is currently on sale in a number of retail outlets.
“As a result, IPCom has filed a complaint in the UK High Court against Xiaomi, seeking relief against the Chinese giant unless it enters into a reasonable licence agreement.”
Pio Suh, MD at IPCom added “we’re in conversation with the team at Xiaomi and hope to conclude the matter and avoid it going the way of HTC.”
It's currently not clear whether the suspension of sales of HTC and Xiaomi smartphones could spread to other countries. We have contacted HTC, Xiaomi and IPCom for further information and will update this article when we know more.