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.

33 Comments

  1. @bizlaw,

    its a pretty obvious strategy, start with the low hanging fruit and with each successful outcome, you have more and more precedent in court. Overtime, the ‘targets’ get bigger and bigger, until, though Android won’t die, basically all these hardware guys are paying Apple royalties for each Android phone.. not bad..

  2. If Apple wins against HTC, Google will have to revise its mobile phone, which is an HTC product. If Apple then goes after Motorola, Google will have time to make those, and additional, revisions before Apple turns its eye on them. Or, perhaps, to license the technologies they can’t code around.
    It would seem to me that Apple is giving Google fair warning and a chance to get out from under, rather than sharpening its aim. Apple has no good reason to target Google for punitive damages, though they do need to protect their IP. If only because they SAID they would,

  3. “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.”

    It’s a smart move. The objective isn’t to inflict financial hardship with an award (from Google or any of the manufacturers), or earn licensing fees, the objective is to get phones with Apple technology off the market.

    This is the quickest way to convince all of the Android manufacturers to re-think their OS approach — perhaps abandoning that particular OS altogether — forcing them to start over.

  4. And side-tracking onto the Xerox PARC thing, PARC didn’t stop after doing WIMPs, ethernet, etc. I remember developing software using their workstations in the late 80s. Their software development environments made everything we have now look like garbage.

  5. @Wayback
    The Finder/Desktop and drop down menus from a menu bar were Apple creations, as were re-drawing of regions to take care of activating overlapping windows. PARC did have a mouse driven interface, but the one Apple developed evolved from the original PARC idea. Riffing, but I seem to remember reading that Apple’s use of icons was different as well. In SmallTalk (I think) icons only initiated actions, were effectively “verbs”. Whereas Apple used them as “objects”, actions were done to them, ie, as files dragged to a folder icon were copied there.

  6. “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.'”

    The question is, how *far* does Google stand behind it/them ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue wink” style=”border:0;” />

    As far as Palm and Synaptics are concerned, Apple would have acquired them by now if it felt that their patent portfolios were related or foundational in some manner to Apple’s iPhone patents.

  7. Author of the article is ***stupid***

    I mean Newton was developed since 1987 and released years before whatever Palm could do and it was about touch screens. As well as with Palm, not about a capacitive ones, but about resistive.

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