Now, it's war.

Apple (AAPL), the high-tech powerhouse behind the iPhone, has sued up-and-coming Taiwan-based handset maker HTC -- which produces Google's (GOOG) Nexus One phone -- for patent infringement. The lawsuit is an incendiary development in the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Apple and Google over mobile products and services.

Just weeks ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs charged that Google wants to "kill" the iPhone but vowed he wouldn't let that happen. Last August, Google CEO Eric Schmidt left Apple's board as the Internet search giant geared up to launch its own phone, powered by its open-source Android operating system.

Now, after months of posturing and tough talk, the first major shots have been fired. Apple's lawsuit accuses HTC of infringing on 20 patents related to the iPhone, including aspects of the touch screen, user interface and user-sensing technology.

In the lawsuit, Apple specifically references phones that use Android. In addition to the Nexus One, HTC produces several other Android-powered phones.

"Irreparable Injury"

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it," Jobs said in a statement. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours." The suit was filed concurrently with the U.S. International Trade Commission and in U.S. District Court in Delaware.

Referring to several of the patents, Apple said that it "has suffered irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law and will continue to suffer such irreparable injury unless Defendants' infringement of [the patents] is enjoined by this Court."

Apple asked the court for "an injunction against making, using, selling, and/or offering for sale within the United States, and/or importing into the United States, any products and/or services that infringe the Asserted Patents."

In response, HTC issued a statement saying: "HTC values patent rights and their enforcement but is also committed to defending its own technology innovations."

The company added: "HTC only learned of Apple's actions this morning via media reports, and therefore we have not yet had the opportunity to investigate the filings. Until we have had this opportunity, we are unable to comment on the validity of the claims being made against HTC."

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