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Apple Sues HTC for Patent Thievery

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Mar 2, 2010 12:45 PM PT

Apple has filed a lawsuit against smartphone manufacturer HTC, alleging that the company has infringed on 20 patents related to the iPhone.

Apple Sues HTC for Patent Thievery

The complaint cites Google's Nexus One, the T-Mobile G1, the Droid Eris, the Touch Diamond, the Touch Pro2, and the Imagio as examples of infringing devices.

Apple has also filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission seeking to block imports of these products.

Apple decided not to sit by and watch competitors steal its patented inventions instead of creating their own original technology, said CEO Steve Jobs.

Apple is hardly the only smartphone developer to be involved in patent litigation. Just about every major manufacturer has sued or been sued over infringement allegations. Apple, for example, has sued and been sued by Nokia. Both companies have petitioned the ITC for injunctions against the other's products.

One reason for the stepped up legal action may be that these companies are turning to patent litigation as a weapon in what has become a fiercely contested battle for marketshare. The involvement of the ITC is a part of this process, as it is an expedient way to stop what is seen as infringement until the courts can act, said Alexander Poltorak, CEO of General Patent Corp.

It takes years to get to trial in a federal court, and rulings are subject to appeal in the federal circuit, he noted.

"ITC, in this regard, is much faster and more effective," Poltorak told MacNewsWorld.

Protecting IP

Like other patent suits, this one appears to be a serious effort by Apple to protect its intellectual property -- and marketshare, said Ralph H. Palumbo, founding member of Summit Law Group.

"First, the complaint alleges infringement [of] multiple patents, all or most of which assert claims regarding features and functionality that are central to the iPhone, iPad, etc.," he told MacNewsWorld. "Second, lead counsel in the case for Apple is almost certainly Kirkland & Ellis, and the lead lawyer at Kirkland is Bob Krupka.

"Krupka is a very capable and experienced intellectual property trial attorney, with a record of successfully trying significant patent cases to judgment," Palumba said.

That said, any patent case is motivated by competitive reasons, he continued. "Apple is very likely to view Android as a competitive threat, and depriving Android of key intellectual property owned by Apple -- or requiring that the IP be licensed from Apple -- is one way to meet Android's competitive threat. In addition, Google and Apple are moving quickly from being competitive complements to being head-on-head competitors."

Competition From Android

There is good reason for Apple to be worried about Android -- leaving aside questions about patent infringement, James Brehm, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, told MacNewsWorld. "According to the keynote speech Eric Schmidt gave at Barcelona earlier this year, Android is shipping 60,000 devices a day -- at that rate, it will overtake Apple within a year."

Also, Apple is a single device manufacturer while the Android OS is going into multiple devices.

"HTC has taken the lead in working with Google, so I think this suit is a shot across the bow," said Brehm.

By this point, Apple has probably discounted RIM as a competitor and is now focusing on Android, given its growth trajectory and adoption among consumers, Patrick Gray, president of the Prevoyance Group, told MacNewsWorld.

"RIM is fading into relevance only for the enterprise. Google and Android have become the up-and-coming platform to watch among consumers," he said. "There has got to be concern at Apple over this."

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Salesforce Commerce Solution Guide