Mar 30 AT 10:51 PM Nick Gray 46 Comments

HTC One S handset seized by French authorities as HTC-Hub is sued by HTC France


It’s a sad night for HTC fans in France and across the globe as HTC France has taken legal action against HTC-Hub (currently the largest HTC blog on the web) for releasing an unboxing video of the HTC One S. The handset, which Bruno obtained through a confidential source, has also been seized by French authorities.

At this point, we’re not sure what legal charges have been brought against HTC-Hub, but it looks like everything has stemmed from a lack of communication from Hopscotch, HTC’s PR agency in France. Bruno approached Hopscotch a few weeks after Mobile World Congress to inquire about HTC One demo units. While HTC typically sends out demo units to members of the press several days before the actual launch with an embargo agreement (an agreement to not publish any information about the phone before a specific date or time), Hopscotch informed Bruno that demo units would not be available in France until the launch of the HTC One next week.

Members of HTC-Hub decided to take the matter into their own hands and were able to secure the HTC One S without help from HTC or its PR company, meaning there were no legal restrictions as to when they could share images, videos or information about the device. We know that quite a few bloggers in Europe have been using the HTC One S and HTC One X for a few days already, but no major site has given any hands-on account of the devices due to the embargo which they all agreed to.

We don’t know how things will progress with Bruno and the rest of his team at HTC-Hub. From the personal communication we have had with Bruno, it’s obvious that this whole situation could have been resolved without legal action. We don’t want to point fingers at HTC and say that they are in the wrong since we are not directly involved and may be missing some key details, but we’ll be monitoring the situation and let you know if there are any interesting updates.

What are your thoughts on the situation? If HTC-Hub managed to obtain a demo unit of the HTC One S from a different source should they be legally required to abide by an embargo that they never agreed to?

Source: HTC-Hub

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Taylor Wimberly

    As someone who has been accused of breaking an embargo they were never aware of, I think this is silly. But I also understand the PR company just trying to do their job and enforce an embargo that their client requested. Once the info is out there on the web, you can’t really take it back.

    • Angie Wimberly

      Well, if you have a plan of how you want to announce something, and someone screws it up, I can see that making you pretty mad and wanting to send a message to everyone about what consequences can come to you because of it.

      • TWiT Commander

        I think they want to find out who broke the embargo by supplying the device to HTC-Hub.

      • Joel

        Im with you Angie, gotta side with HTC and the PR on this one.
        Its like when your parents used to tell you not to eat sweets to ruin your appetite before dinner, so they give you no sweets. But you get candy from your neighbor anyway and go home with chocolate on your face – of course your parents are gonna be upset.

        And on the other hand sueing your kids is kind of extreme though.

        • Stephen

          …except that HTC isn’t in charge of the blog, so the blog doesn’t have to obey them.

      • spazby

        agreed, i am on HTC’s side on this one…

    • Taknarosh

      People will be simply slapped on the wrist for this (although the painful kind). I doubt this goes any further than, “Sorry, you are not a trusted media partner anymore we will be terminating any and all professional ties as of this moment” or something along those lines for all involved (Possibly HTC Hub and definitely whoever they got the unit from).

      That being said, NDAs and embargos are not to be taken lightly.

      Being a tech blogger and having a great working relationship with HTC (and their PR firm) in Canada, I know how much of a privilege it is to be able to test any review devices. I would have thought that a site like HTC Hub would have considered all the possible consequences of what they were doing.

      What we witnessed was a quick How-To guide on burning bridges.

      • bruno miguel

        Hi im the owner of htc hub

        Im agree with all you said in your comment but we never knew that here was an embargo for the products ! Htc France never said to us … We learned it by some other blog friends after this things…

        Why HTC France didnt trusted us ?

        When i asked them the devices they just reply us not available until staring of april, when i was appart from this i thought here is just an availability problem, so i got the device.

        • Steve Hall

          Sorry, not buying “we never knew there was an embargo.” Maybe you never were notified by HTC of an embargo, because HTC didn’t send you a preview unit. But if you claim to be an HTC-dedicated site, you KNEW there would be an embargo, and to say otherwise is disingenuous at best.

          As a journalist, your duty was to absolutely determine if there was an embargo: I’m pretty certain a call or email to HTC-France would have established that.

          In short: YOU BLEW IT.

          • nosense

            They blew NOTHING.

            As long as they lay the hanset to the OWNER, they have nothing to worry about.

            They haven’t infringed any law nor breached any contract (as there wasn’t anything contractual) so they GOT the news and the public respect for the exclusivity (a First unboxing anyway, as if it weren’t any vids of it actually being demoed on the Tube…) and quite a bit of Angry from a couple of retarded board executives at HTC that overreacted to this ala Apple.

            Would it be all a publicity scam like the “stolen” iPhone4′s ???

          • Clark Wimberly

            “As a journalist, your duty was to absolutely determine if there was an embargo”

            No way. Absolutely no way. Sure, he could have looked into it, but calling it his duty is just silly. The only way an embargo should apply to you is if you agree to it. These aren’t laws, people.

          • Stephen

            There isn’t an embargo unless you agree to an embargo, which they didn’t because HTC didn’t give them the unit.

            HTC blew it.

    • mustybooks

      But if they haven’t signed a contract with the HTC or the PR company then they aren’t obliged to uphold this “information embargo”. I think that how they acquired the device and whether they did so through legal means may be a bigger issue.

  • Kartouche

    Htc hub is everything but the largest htc site in france.

    It’s like if you’re reading a people magazine talking about HTC

  • Ardrid

    Assuming the legal system works as it should, and there aren’t key details we’re missing, the complaint against HTC Hub should be dismissed without consequence. HTC Hub cannot be bound to an NDA they did not agree to; as such, there is nothing to prevent them from legally disseminating information about the phone, even if they know others are subject to the NDA.

    So long as the phone was acquired legally on their part (a la not stolen property), there should be nothing to need to worry about it.

    • Taknarosh

      What will happen on the other hand, is the review unit will probably be traced back to the original media outlet the One S was supposed to go to and he/she will probably be put under question for giving the unit to HTC Hub.

      Honestly, while I don’t want to see HTC get taken down, I believe it was poor judgement on HTC Hub to break an embargo regardless of whether they agreed to one or not. I’m sure they were not foolish enough to think that since they didn’t sign an NDA that they could freely do whatever they wanted with the acquired test unit.

      That being said. HTC knows this is a touchy issue, so I doubt they would go and take down one of the larger fan sites. (Well at least hope they don’t do to them what Apple did to Gizmodo).

      • Stondec

        But that hasn’t stopped Gizmodo’s Apple worshipping.

  • Nick Gray

    I don’t think HTC-Hub should be help accountable for someone else’s mistake. If a store sells a product a few days early, the customer shouldn’t get sued, the store should. Bruno did not make any agreements with HTC. They told him that the phone was not available until after launch. He found out someone else could get him the phone, so he took them up on the opportunity.

    To stay out of legal trouble, Bruno will probably have to give up the source who supplied the device. It’s not a pretty situation to be in.

    I’d received many phones under embargo from HTC and other OEMs. I would never jeopardize my relationship with any of the companies by breaking an embargo. But if I received a handset from a third party without the OEM’s knowledge, I would probably have done exactly what Bruno did.

  • Steve Hall

    Well, let’s look at it in the light of journalism: Bloggers want to be considered (by other, more mainstream) journalists as equals. But for that to happen, there are certain ethics to be observed, and one of those is not to do the sort of thing HTC-Hub did, then try to hide behind arguments that “but we got this one through improper channels, so the embargo doesn’t apply.”

    Legal questions aside, I have no respect for how HTC-Hub handled this.

    • Nick Gray

      Are you forgetting that the most interesting stories in the main media are those investigative journalism pieces when the real media goes undercover to find out information that’s being hidden? What’s the difference if a blog does it or if it’s CNN?

      Real journalists bend the rules all the time to get an exclusive story.

    • Ardrid

      I can see your point but I don’t think I necessarily agree with it. I think it’s more so a question of professionalism as opposed to ethics. Ethically, I don’t think HTC Hub did anything wrong because they weren’t bound by an NDA. Professionally, however, I think HTC Hub is in the wrong because they, as journalists/bloggers, have a higher standard to uphold and were well aware, either actually, implicitly, or constructively, that an embargo was in place.

      I understand why they acquired the phone and why they posted videos, but I can’t say I would have done the same if it meant my professional reputation and relationships were at stake.

    • Clark Wimberly

      Is this serious? You expect journalist to play by rules set by some random PR firm? Journalists have a whole set of ethics to deal with, but following rules that they never agreed to isn’t one of them. That’s actually the whole reason PR firms exist, to control what journalists may or may not do.

      To completely submit to that is lame. Sure, if you’ve gotta agree to an embargo to get a device, you follow it. But if you get choice intel with no restrictions, you’d have to be a fool to restrict yourself based on the financial interests of someone unknown and unwilling to talk to you.

      • Sarah

        I think people forget that an embargo is a contractual agreement, not a law. If you don’t sign the contract, you are not required to abide by its rules.

  • Shen

    They should be glad that HTC didn’t decide to include a C&D for trademark violation, and copyright violation (the images used on the site). Worse things could have happened, e.g. to the retailed in Germany who started selling the devices early yesterday. They’re gonna feel the full legal rape that is the HTC lawyers.

    • Ardrid

      Not quite. HTC does not have a case for either copyright infringement, trademark infringement, or trademark dilution.

      First and foremost, HTC does not have a legal right to the photos and video taken by HTC Hub. The legal owner of that copyright is vested in the photographer/videographer, in this case HTC Hub. More importantly, HTC cannot claim that any perceived copyright they may possess was violated simply because HTC Hub legally possessed the phone and legally disseminated acquired information about said phone.

      Second, HTC cannot bring a legal suit for trademark infringement or trademark dilution. HTC Hub did not misappropriate the ‘HTC One’ mark or brand as its own, nor did it disparage it or attempt to misuse it. HTC Hub also did attempt to utilize the ‘HTC One’ mark or brand in its own commerce or business, save for disseminating the aforementioned legally acquired information. Any alleged trademark infringement that HTC might allege would fall under incidental fair use for the purposes of education, news reporting, or commentary.

      And, yes, I am an attorney :)

      • Shen

        You misunderstood me mate, I wasn’t talking about the phones nor the situation. I was talking about their website as a whole. HTC is a trademarked name, a lot of graphics they use on their site including the clock and background are pulled from HTC Sense and, unlike the bugdroid image for Android, these images are not under creative common and copyrighted by HTC. All I’m saying is that they’re lucky HTC only went after the phones and didn’t pull down their entire site.

        • Ardrid

          Ahh, I misunderstood. HTC could arguably have a cause of action as to the website itself, but I suspect that HTC Hub’s use of images, and even the HTC trademark, would still fall under incidental fair use since it’s clear that HTC Hub exists to provide education/commentary on HTC devices. It’s also unlikely that consumers are confusing HTC Hub as being an official HTC website, though the case could certainly be pursued.

          • Shen

            You’d be surprised. I know quite a few people working at HTC, and it’s a frequent occurrence that someone confuses HTC-Hub for an official HTC blog.

      • DK

        wouldn’t it be likely that every demo device HTC released was under a NDA (including this one) regardless of who agreed to it? Also, if it was in HTC Hubs possession (and out of the NDA agreers hands), could it then be seen as stolen HTC property (under these agreements)?

        • Shen

          Basically, they didn’t sign anything or agree to anything, but somewhere along the line of how they acquired the phone, someone must have. Anyone after that weak link (usually a retailer) would get the sharp end of the legal stick. It would also mean that whoever that has the device would have the device seized by HTC.

        • Ardrid

          I think we can all assume that every demo unit is covered by an NDA; however, NDAs, like any other contract, are only binding on the parties who sign/agree to them. In this instance, HTC Hub acquired the demo unit without having signed an NDA; as such, they are not bound by it.

          To the second question, we would need more information. If all demo units were eventually meant to be returned back to HTC, then I think a case could be made that HTC Hub misappropriated HTC’s property. That would certainly make the seizure legitimate. Whether HTC would have any other legal recourse would turn on HTC Hub’s knowledge and intent.

          • Shen

            I can verify the second part. No HTC beta/demo devices are to be given to the public. Any beta devices are to be returned if lent to the press.

          • Nick Gray

            When HTC and other OEMs send out demo units, those who receive the devices agree to be responsible for the cost for the device. Meaning, it the device is lost or stole, you would need to repay the OEM full retail price – nothing more

          • Shen

            I know for sure that HTC have a strict policy about never giving away beta devices, but only ever loan them short-term.

    • Stondec

      “legal rape” LOL

  • Max.Steel

    HTC Hub dropped the ball here. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

  • Nathan D.

    Dam that is hard core what HTC did to the bloggers and almost unfair if you ask me. If they got the phone fair and square then they shouldn’t get sue for it instead blame the person who released the phone to them. If they didn’t sign the paper or email to not release information about the phone then I would probably do the same thing they did thinking nothing will happen to me.

    • Shen

      They’re only getting a phone, that they shouldnt have, seized….

  • Stondec

    Surprised to see HTC go all Apple on these guys. Looks like the same strategy worked for Apple. Gizmido still worships them daily. Maybe HTC hub will also suffer the same stockholm syndrome after HTC’s brutal “legal rape” of them

    • Max.Steel

      It’s not “going Apple”. This isn’t about patents or copyright laws. This is about obtaining a product that wasn’t yet up for sale.

      • Shen

        It’s not about that either, or they would have taken the One X as well. It’s about HTC having a strict policy about demo and beta phones, and never giving them away. The person they got it from is under contract as beta devices given to the press are on short loan.

  • Gekko

    i remember many years ago when Palm threatened to beat up some Palm-enthusiast site owners who had the word “Palm” in their name.

  • Nick Gray

    Not unless HTC is bringing criminal charges.

  • AndyGarcia

    I am goona fart in 2 days no one can say anything it is an embargo.. If anyone reads this they will be breaking the embargo and I will get my fart back :-)) .

  • killdashnine

    MMh, wait, there are some updates.

    HTC France has answered on their Facebook wall. They said that they asked HTC hub to give back the illegal unit, but they haven’t.
    HTC Hub answered that only the PR Company has contacted them to say that HTC was furious and they wanted to know where they got the unit from and to give it back to HTC.

    On the comments, we can read that HTC Hub was affraid to compromise their source. Seems that this guy is going to loose his job. Some people said also on the comment that it wasn’t a good idea to try to sell the unit (but no reference of this fact, so not confirmed at all that they tried this).

    So, they got the unit by one un-official way. Some other french blog website have got this unit by the official way. HTC hub have bought their device from someone else. Seems that this device is a demo device and not a prototype. They said that they were not knowing the fact that HTC had one embargo for this unit (even if many websites are talking about this).

    IMHO, we really should wait for this, because maybe HTC France has sued this website just to take back the unit, to chase the first seller.
    HTC hub has made a big mistake by not respecting the process from HTC. They should have asked PR if it was legit to perform a review before.