HTC pulls a Nokia. Sends law enforcement to recover “stolen One S prototype” from a review site

HTC wants a “stolen prototype” HTC One S back from a French blog. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Nokia has demanded the same thing a couple of years ago from Russian journalist Eldar Murtazin. The language used is almost identical too.

So what happened? Well, today the HTC One X and One S smartphones got officially released in some places. As such, dozens of reviews of these phones popped up everywhere on the Web. The people writing those reviews have had access to One X and One S units for a while now, all covered under an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) until today. Basically what that means is that they agreed not to publish anything about the devices earlier than today.

This is a common practice in the mobile space. However, what happened to well known French blog HTC Hub isn’t. And since the Nokia N8 ‘stolen prototype’ hubbub of 2010 there weren’t any other cases like these that came into the spotlight.

HTC Hub is, as its name implies, a fan blog for HTC products. The people working there asked HTC’s PR agency in France, Hopscotch, for review units of the HTC One series a couple of weeks after MWC. This PR agency is handling all such relations with the media in France. Unfortunately, they told HTC Hub that review units would only become available in April.

After it was known that the One series would launch today, it made no sense at all for HTC Hub to wait for Hopscotch to send them those units. So they went and bought an HTC One S from a ‘confidential source’. How that source came into possession of a One S prototype is unclear, and HTC Hub won’t say (or doesn’t know).

However, it’s worthy to note that HTC Hub did not sign any NDA with HTC. Therefore everything they published about that HTC One S couldn’t have broken any such agreement, since there was none. Also, HTC Hub insists that purchasing that unit was only a consequence of the lack of availability of official review units.

Regardless, HTC has convinced a court in France to go after HTC Hub and seize the “stolen prototype”. HTC claims that it contacted HTC Hub “several times” with regard to the returning of the proto, but the website refused to return the product. HTC Hub in turn claims that HTC never contacted it directly. It also argues that it exercised good faith in purchasing the device, and it did not do anything wrong. According to HTC Hub, Hopscotch, the PR firm, did call once to express HTC’s ‘dissatisfaction’ at the situation and to ask who the One S was purchased from – but that was it.

HTC Hub also says that it was Hopscotch who should have warned it about the embargo about publishing information about the One series. The PR agency did not do that when it told HTC Hub that official review units would only be available in April. In fact, HTC Hub claims that it was only made aware of the embargo after it had purchased the One S and announced a series of posts about it. And if it would have known about the embargo beforehand, it wouldn’t have purchased the prototype.

HTC just wants to protect its intellectual property. That’s what the Taiwanese company’s representatives say. Yet at this point that reasoning sounds strange, since many people in Europe can just go to their nearest store and purchase a One S and have access to that ‘intellectual property’. So what could possibly render that one prototype so important?

This is probably just a case of HTC France, its PR agency, or both overreacting without consulting with the global HQ first. Or maybe it’s how HTC plans on handling fan blogs from now on. We’ll have to wait and see. Although if it will turn out to be the latter, we’re betting many HTC blogs will seriously reconsider devoting time and resources to covering a company that acts in such ways.

Via HTC Hub here, here, and here

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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