The patent war on the Android front has been picking up over the last month or so. Samsung and Apple have been back and forth, pointing fingers and bickering like little children over who did what first and whose legal muscles are bigger. The Cupertino-based company has also been targeting HTC with intent to severely wound.
Patent battles are an ongoing thing in the tech industry, but they typically blow over with time. Since Android entered the scene, though, Google's numerous partner manufacturers have been wearing targets on their backs. Why? Mainly because Google's mobile patent library is pretty sparse in comparison to companies like Microsoft and Apple. Using a platform that is allegedly susceptible to patent violations has left many manufacturers unprotected and vulnerable.
Just three days ago it was revealed that an International Trade Commission judge ruled in Apple's favor, postulating that HTC had in fact violated at least two of ten Apple patents. The ruling still has to be reviewed by a six-person committee. If the judge's ruling is upheld, things could go south for HTC. Although it isn't likely, their devices could be barred from the US. The more likely result is HTC having to pay royalties to Apple – mind you that this would be on top of already paying $5 to Microsoft for every Android device they sell.
The patents being used against HTC are extremely vague and I've read hundreds of commenters around the web throwing a red flag on “prior art." I'm no patent or coding expert, so I'll leave that decision to the pros. But what I do know is that these futile suits are slowing further innovation. I agree that a company should protect their intellectual property, but this patent battle has gotten just plain silly. It's obvious that Apple feels threatened and instead of facing Google directly, they are essentially going around targeting Google's smaller partners saying, “Stop copying me." It's pretty childish and more or less annoying.
Up to this point, Google has done little – that we know of – to actually stifle the ongoing suits. They haven't totally left their partners out to dry though, as they have been hiring patent lawyers and experts to (hopefully) enter the war. Former CEO Eric Schmidt also had quite a sassy retort in an interview with PerthNow, claiming Apple is suing out of jealousy and that Google will make sure HTC doesn't lose the patent suit. Them's fightin' words, boy.
For the sake of HTC, let's just hope Google can back it up. But what will happen if and when Google enters the picture? Is it already too late? These patent suits against Android manufacturers have been going on for over a year now and Google has simply sat by and watched. If they are so confident that they can step in and end this crazy battle, why didn't they do it a year ago?
Schmidt has an excellent point, he really does. But to be honest, stepping in and stopping a process that is already in motion isn't going to be as easy as Schmidt makes it sound, even with Google's legal team and deep pockets. My guess is that Apple has been waiting for this moment for a year now and is ready for Google to escalate this to the next level. Either way, I'm ready for this nonsense to be over and for them to start focusing making phones and software again, not bickering over whose is bigger.
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