You may have heard about all the legal drama surrounding Apple and Android phone manufacturers like HTC or Samsung. With its rapid success, HTC has become a prime target for Apple, and it looked like Apple was having the upper hand, but HTC has “acquired” patents from Google and has started to use them to (counter) sue Apple, again.
The root of the problem is that the smartphone market is so hot that any edge over the competition matters. What was previously considered to be the “nuclear” option (patent lawsuit) has now become the secondary ammunition, the first type being the product themselves. To “defend” Android, Google has acquired Motorola for its large patent portfolio.Apple basically says that Android copies its iOS operating system, but instead of going after Google directly, Apple is going after handset manufacturers like HTC. Apple is also suing Samsung with a certain degree of success as it forced Samsung to remove/delay products from certain countries or even from tradeshows like IFA. Interestingly, Apple is even going after a Chinese food company because they allegedly copy the Apple logo (it’s not really a good copy, or a copy for that matter).
In its lawsuit, HTC is accusing Apple of using its intellectual property in the wireless updates that many of its devices feature (iPods, iPhone, Macs…). With a smartphone market valued at $200B, you can bet that this is going to continue for some time. It’s hard to know who will win, but lawsuits are often not about winning, or being right for that matter. They are also a great way to block, slow down and hinder adversaries.
Frankly, some claim may be legitimate while others aren’t – at this point, it’s a matter of legality and technicality. Competition is supposed to be good for the consumer, but for now, the only winners are the law firms involved. It’s a great time to be a patent lawyer :)
Fun fact: Microsoft is making more money from Android patent settlements than it does with its own Windows Phone 7 OS.