Letter from AmeriKat - Apple and the mobile wars

A typical week for the AmeriKat usually includes several trademark occurrences, such as absentmindedly reading the Evening Standard, getting newspaper ink on one's paws, then wiping the ink all over one's face and nose leather. Or, sitting across from someone on the Tube who she is sure she knows from somewhere and so therefore spends the entire journey scowling at them trying to place them (only frightening them instead) (left -the AmeriKat in the Tube). Or, having good intentions to use the lovingly bought Waitrose food in the fridge to prepare healthy dinners, only to grow so tired at the end of the day that she resorts to lapping up a bowl of cereal instead. These hallmarks of the AmeriKat's week have become such a mainstay that they actually provide her some comfort in an otherwise unpredictable world.

Apple takes a bite out of key Google partner

A mainstay of patent litigation over the past few weeks has been the frequent occurrence of litigation over mobile technology which some are dubbing the "Mobile Wars". The AmeriKat previously reported about the ping-pong Nokia v Apple patent litigation (here and here). Last week saw Apple filing a patent infringement law suit and US International Trade Commission (ITC) complaint against HTC, a key Google Inc. partner in the mobile technology market. HTC, a Taiwan-based company, manufactures several Google smart phones including the Nexus One. Phones like Nexus One use Android technology.

The federal lawsuit filed in Delaware last Tuesday alleges that HTC has infringed 20 patents used in Apple's iPhone. Many of the patents are related to the iPhone's touch-screen technology, including a method for unlocking a handset on a touch screen with a finger swipe. Apple's ITC filing complained about 10 patents which in particular emphasized android phones as violating their patents. In a statement, Apple's Chief Executive Steve Jobs stated that

"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. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

HTC spokesperson, Keith Novak, stated that the company "values patent rights and their enforcement but is also committed to defending its own technology innovations." Google, which is not party to this litigation, proactively put forward a press statement declaring that they supported their "Android operating system and the partners who have helped us to develop it." Google's statement is indicative of what many commentators are considering Apple's litigation to really be about. According to TechCrunch's MG Seigler

"[W]e're all well aware [that] this suit is much more about Google's Android operating system than HTC. And it seems that Google is well aware of that too."

The Wall Street Journal states that Apple declined to comment on whether the suit was targeted at Google. However, the two Silicon Valley Goliaths have been vying over who will inevitably control how users access the internet from hand-held devices. Previously, Google and Apple collaborated on map, search and mail functions prior to iPhone's July 2007 release. YouTube, a Google subsidiary, also made its YouTube video service compatible with Apple's technology. It now appears that the former collegiality between these two companies is waning.

The new Google android phone manufactured by HTC was due to launch in a few weeks, which makes Apple's lawsuit aptly timed to cause HTC the most damage. Bloomberg reports that HTC dropped 2 percent to close at NT$323.5 on the Taiwan Stock Exchange after Apple filed their complaints. This represented the biggest decline since February 8.

It seems to the AmeriKat that in suing HTC, Apple has sent a clear signal to all mobile phone manufacturers that the iPhone's patent empire is expansive and they better ensure that their iPhone 'mimics' are not infringing, or they will be next...

For an fun article discussing what a Google phone would look like if Apple got their way, see this article from Wired. For further information see these articles from CNN, Wall Street Journal, PC World, and The Times.
Letter from AmeriKat - Apple and the mobile wars Letter from AmeriKat - Apple and the mobile wars Reviewed by Annsley Merelle Ward on Sunday, March 07, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. a good first look at the subject matter of all patents in the suits can be found here http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/02/apple-vs-htc-a-patent-breakdown/ , for those interested in the details.

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