Patent lawyer: Apple’s going after HTC first, Motorola’s next, but Google’s the real target

New Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac. $15 discount!“On Tuesday, Apple sued HTC, the Taiwanese company that is the largest maker of smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, including the Nexus One, designed and sold by Google,” Brad Stone reports for The New York Times.

“In the lawsuit, filed with the office of the United States International Trade Commission and the United States District Court in Delaware, Apple said that HTC phones running Android violated 20 of its patents, including those relating to the iPhone’s ability to recognize the touch of multiple fingers on its screen at once,” Stone reports. “Though the lawsuit singles out HTC, many patent lawyers and analysts say they believe Apple’s target is Google and the Android operating system, which the company gives away to cellphone manufacturers. ‘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,’ said Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in a statement. ‘We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.'”

“The lawsuit ‘is the opening shot in a war,’ said Kevin Rivette, a patent lawyer and former vice president for intellectual property strategy at I.B.M. ‘Apple is island-hopping, attacking first the Asian companies. Then it can go after Motorola, gradually whittling away at Google’s base. They want to break the Android tsunami,'” Stone reports. “Google said in a statement: ‘We are not a party to this lawsuit. However, we stand behind our Android operating system and the partners who have helped us to develop it.'”

Stone reports, “Apple, with its patent portfolio relating to multitouch controls and other ways these complex phones operate, apparently believes it has the legal leverage to slow down Google and the spread of Android… As with all patent cases, a decision or settlement could hinge on whether lawyers for HTC — and perhaps Google, if they decide to help — can find ‘prior art’ that demonstrates Apple’s innovations were not all that novel.”

“Such a task may not be that difficult. Palm sold touch-based mobile phones for years before the introduction of the iPhone, and is believed to have a large portfolio of patents. Synaptics, based in Santa Clara, Calif., is also a major owner of intellectual property related to touch screens,” Stone reports. “These companies, and others, may now become valuable acquisition targets as the big players look to improve their position in the coming legal battles and the inevitable countersuits.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote nearly fourteen months ago: “Apple could buy Palm this afternoon with petty cash. In fact, maybe that’s what Palm and Elevation Partners – and Wall Street speculators – are really shooting for: a buyout by Apple or some other company. Apple would buy Palm in order to absorb a would-be competitor and/or gain access to certain patents and technologies and/or to prevent another company (Microsoft, RIM, etc.) from making the acquisition.” – MacDailyNews, January 09, 2009

And Apple wouldn’t sue HTC without very high confidence in their legal position. This one is meant to set the legal precedents that will aid in expediting future actions.

We, too, think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal Apple’s.


  1. I think Google really pissed someone off? Could it be Steve Jobs?

    Jobs has decided to cost Google some money and its partners dig into their wallets. I think google may step back a little instead of rushing to buy a company that Apple was dealing with.

    The wrath of Jobs cometh!!!

  2. @ Wayback, it wasn’t. And Apple paid Xerox for the privilege of seeing the technology. They even hired some of the engineers to continue their work under Apple.

    People tend to forget that Apple did a lot to improve the basic idea they saw at PARC. They didn’t copy it wholesale by any means. They took an interesting idea, and with a lot of hard work and a large number of brilliant insights, made it into something amazing.

    Android (and Windows before it) are basically copies of existing products, with 99% of all of the technological and interface issues solved already by someone else (Apple).

  3. Think this is one of the reasons they have accumulated almost $40B? They can hire and pay for a lot of bottom feeders with some of that money.

    As far as Google being able to search prior art, they will only find it if the patent holder has paid Google to get be on top of search hit list.

  4. Lately, the past 2 weeks I have been thinking of Apple’s 40 Billion in cash. I came to the conclusion Apple should buy Palm. They would then own Palm’s patents which since the Pre was released people have said Palm has the strongest patent portfolio against Apple.

  5. Wayback,

    You could ask the same question of Adobe re: Postscript. Both John Warnock and Chuck Geshkce (sp?) were PARC engineers who, IIRC, left when their ideas for a page-description language were mothballed by Xerox.

    You have to remember that PARC was practically a vanity project for Xerox who just liked to provide a near-academic environment for some really bright people to play in.

    Many years ago, there was a maxim that said something like “Xerox invents, Apple markets and Microsoft makes a lot of money”. Thankfully, this isn’t as true as it once was.

  6. Good IP attorneys will have considered prior art in the submission process. I’m sure Apple will have that covered. The issue will be how much of a variation in the way Apple implements it’s solutions is required for the solution to be considered a different way of doing it.

  7. When a company has its choice of whom to pursue regarding patent violations, it often will choose the target it feels it is most likely to succeed against. Once a ruling is obtained in the company’s favor, it makes going after other infringing companies easier.

    I suspect Apple is going after HTC because it doesn’t develop any of its own technology really, and it has little claim to any IP of its own. Plus, HTC is one of the most prolific users of Android, at least in number of phones Android is installed on.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.