HTC Buys Google Patents To Expand Apple Lawsuit

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The increasingly bitter patent fight has seen HTC acquire Google patents so it can expand its battle against Apple

The ongoing legal patent tussles in the mobile sector has now erupted into full blown warfare with the news that HTC Corp has acquired patents from Google, in order that it can expand its lawsuit against Apple.

HTC is already being sued by Apple as part of its fight against Android, and in turn the Taiwanese mobile maker is also suing Apple.

It seems however that HTC is now expanding its legal battle against Apple to include the nine patents it acquired from Google last week. Specificially, HTC has amended its existing complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) and US District Court of Delaware against Apple over three patent infringements.

It has also filed an additional case in Delaware alleging patent infringement by Apple’s iOS devices and Mac computers.

Patent lawsuits

“HTC will continue to protect its patented inventions against infringement from Apple until such infringement stops,” Grace Lei, HTC’s general counsel, was quoted as saying by Reuters in a statement.

“We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours,” Apple was quoted as saying, in response to HTC’s latest legal action.

Google of course has been on its own patent acquisition spree, and it is understood that the nine patents it sold to HTC concern the Android operating system.

Those patents were actually acquired by Google from Motorola, Palm and others during the past year.

Expert reaction

Meanwhile Florian Mueller, the intellectual property (IP) analyst provided a rundown of the actual patents involved, in a blog posting.

Mueller wrote that Google knows HTC is under tremendous legal pressure from Apple and is “clearly on the losing track.”

“HTC is the first Android device maker sued by Apple, so that dispute is at the most advanced stage, and since HTC’s own patent portfolio is weak, it has so far lacked the leverage to force Apple into a cross-license agreement,” wrote Mueller. “The possibility of HTC being defeated must have scared Google.”

“Another motivation for Google is probably to demonstrate some support to third-party Android device makers even though it’s clear those won’t be able to compete with a Google-owned Motorola Mobility on a playing field if the deal goes through,” he wrote.

“This intervention on Google’s part increases the likelihood of direct litigation by Apple against Google. Apple may hold patents that could affect Google beyond Android,” he concluded. “I’m sure Apple always knew this might happen but decided to enforce its rights at any rate.”

Hampering competition?

Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond, last month hit out at Apple, Microsoft and Oracle, accusing them of colluding in order to hamper the increasingly popular Android operating system.

He specifically accused Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and others of conducting a hostile, organised campaign waged through bogus patents.

Meanwhile the HTC/Apple legal tussle is not restricted to US courts. In early August HTC’s legal wrangle with Apple arrived in the UK after HTC filed a complaint to London’s High Court.

Patent tussle history

HTC and Apple have been locked in a tit-for-tat legal battle over patents since March 2010, when Apple fired the first salvo with a complaint to the US International Trade Commission (ITC), alleging that HTC had violated 20 of its patents.

Apple then followed this up in June and July 2010 more lawsuits claiming two further violations, as well as a complaint to the ITC.

But it has not been one-way trafffic. In between HTC filed a patent infringement suit of its own, asking the ITC to ban Apple from selling iPods, iPads and iPhones in the US.

The ITC has the power to ban the import of goods to the US that are found to violate patents.

So far Apple and HTC have each scored preliminary victories in the US, which if formally upheld later in the year could ban HTC from selling its Android phones and tablets in America, and ban Apple from selling Mac desktop and laptops because OS X was found to infringe on patents held by S3 graphics, which HTC is taking over.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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