Questions and Answers On The Apple/HTC iPhone Lawsuit

Apple is suing HTC over patent infringements related to the iPhone. If the many forum commenters around the web are to be believed, it’s a “nonsense suit” or “about time”. In every case the commenter is certain Apple’s and HTC’s lawyers are morons, while the commenter himself — having woken up this morning as an expert in patent litigation — is brilliant. 

I can’t determine the legitimacy of patents under dispute, but there are a number of questions floating around I believe can be answered with some semblance of sanity instead of the raving I’ve seen so far. 

Why now? The iPhone’s been out nearly three years. 
Some of the patents were granted fairly recently (some even this year). Further, it takes time to prepare a case. This isn’t that strange, look how long it took Apple to sue Psystar. 

Isn’t this just because Apple is afraid of Android? 
I don’t see a history in Apple of suing those they’re “afraid” of. They went after Apple II cloners (with success), and also after Windows (with no success) because they felt their IP had been stolen. I believe they feel that’s the case here as well. 

No, they’re afraid of Android. Otherwise, why didn’t they go after someone like Palm?
I believe a “win” over Palm would have been great for them in the sense that the best thing to have in your pocket is precedent. Palm had no money and likely would have been amenable to a settlement. Armed with precedent, further lawsuits would have been easier.

Given the above, I think Apple did not go after Palm for two reasons: 

  • The WebOS is not as obvious a “rip off” of the iPhone OS, or at least could be made to seem that way to a jury. With the card paradigm, local web-based apps, and Synergy, there may have been too many questions.
  • Palm did a lot of innovating in the 90s with handhelds and PDAs. They’ve amassed a lot of patents themselves, patents Apple may be using or, again, that a jury could be made to think Apple is using. 

Just as a precedent is huge, a loss in your first case would be devastating. I think Apple passed until a better opportunity presented itself. 

OK, then why not sue Google?
Lessons learned. 25 years ago Apple went after the source of their alleged IP theft (Microsoft) to no avail. Successful cases for the Apple II has been against specific manufacturers (e.g., Franklin). 

I think Apple feels trying to kill the source of an OS used by so many makers presents too many chances for obfuscation to a jury (many different brands that are all somewhat different, etc.). So they chose to go after one maker, knowing full well the OS is implicated in the suit anyway. Put simply, they don’t have to go after Google directly to include Android. 

OK, then why HTC and not someone else? 
Because Google officially “blessed” the Nexus One, and is selling it. That makes it a pretty clear target. Further, perhaps Apple felt HTC had the smallest chance of whipping out a patent portfolio they need to be wary of. 

Who wins?
Nice try, but I’m not biting. 

OK, OK, what do you think about the suit?
I think it’s great for Apple to have the patents so they can defend themselves if necessary. However, I’m a bit leery of using them as a club against others. It’s not that I sanction stealing IP, but there’s a fine line between “stealing” and “standing on someone’s shoulders”. Of course, further details may show the alleged theft is more blatant, but at this very early stage I’m a bit disappointed to see the suit filed. 
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One thought on “Questions and Answers On The Apple/HTC iPhone Lawsuit

  1. Apple has no reason to “fear” Android; Android, as it stands, isn’t that great. But, neither should they allow pissants to make money selling cheap knock-offs of THEIR intellectual property. I think HTC has cash in the bank and will be easier to “crush” than Google. Crushing HTC will make other crooks think twice. Good play, Apple.

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