Yesterday Apple filed a lawsuit (http://www.macsimumnews.com/index.php/archive/apple_sues_htc_for_patent_infringement) against HTC for infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface. And the reaction has been, well, all over the map.
As many as 10 of those violations involve the Nexus One, Apple said in a complaint submitted to the U.S. International Trade Organization (ITC). Apple also filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in Delaware that cited 10 different patents. That lawsuit, however, did not specify the HTC-made phones that allegedly violated Apple’s patents. One analyst says that it’s not money Apple is after.
“Apple’s not in the business of litigation,” said Barry Cohen, a patent and intellectual property attorney at Thorp Reed & Armstrong LLP. told “Computerworld” (http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9164938/Apple_goes_after_Google_s_Nexus_One_in_patent_actions?source=rss_news). “Only lawyers are in business to litigate. Apple has a bigger purpose here, but whether it’s to shut down HTC or to go directly after Google is unclear at the moment. Do they have a plan to subsequently [sue] Google? Possibly.”
Cohen said that if Tuesday’s filings were only a the first step toward taking on Google directly, he expected that Apple had set its strategy and was following a game plan. “Apple is a smart company,” he said. One unknown, Cohen told “Computerworld,” is whether HTC and Google have an agreement that would require the latter to help the former defend any patent infringement claims that relate to the Android operating system. “We don’t know what, if any, agreements are in place,” he said.
Ian Fogg of Forrester Research said that the case against HTC, in which Apple alleges infringement of 20 of its patents, could be the first of many and could affect all Android phones. Although Apple hasn’t named Google in the suits (at least not yet), many of the named patents relate to operating system processes, and Google has come out in support of HTC in the case.
HTC was the first manufacturer to use Android in its phones and is also the maker of Google’s own brand Nexus One handset. “BBC News” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8547230.stm) says that some have speculated that Apple is attacking Google “by proxy” by filing the case against HTC.
“I think this is kind of an indirect lawsuit against Google,” analyst Shaw Wu of Kaufman Brothers said.
Lyle Vander Schaaf, a patent lawyer with Bryan Cave LLP in Washington, told “BusinessWeek” (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-03-02/apple-seeks-to-block-imports-of-htc-phones-into-u-s-update1-.html) the lawsuit was like starting a “nuclear war.”
“It’s like nuclear war,” said Schaaf, who specializes in cases before the ITC in Washington, where Apple filed complaints over 10 patents. “If you really want to have an effective remedy to protect your rights, you go to the ITC. Once you’re there, there’s no going back.”
Meanwhile, HTC has issued a statement with the Taiwan Stock Exchange stating that it is an innovator of mobile technology with numerous patents and that it will defend the values as well as privileges of its in-house developed technologies in cooperation with the judicial system in the US. According to “DigiTimes” (http://www.digitimes.com/news/a20100303PM201.html), HTC insists it designed and developed its user interface, the HTC Sense, in-house, and “with the same spirit, it has rolled out a number of innovative smartphones over the past 13 years.”
Still, If Apple prevails, HTC would face a big roadblock, In-Stat analyst Allen Nogee told “Fox News” (http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/03/03/apple-moves-android-phone-sales-blocked-claims-theft/). He added that Apple likely waited for awhile to file the complaints because, with several devices now out, it could see a bigger financial gain in the end.
“If they pounce the first day a phone comes out that infringes on a patent then the biggest take they can have is the revenue from that one phone,” he said.