Why Apple is really suing HTC

Apple is going after HTC, maker of the Nexus One phone, but its real target is Google.

Apple's lawsuit against Nexus One maker HTC and its ongoing legal battles with Nokia and Kodak suggest a universal truth: that lawyers start where innovation stops. Maybe smartphone innovation has slowed so much that Apple now finds it easier to play defense than to invent cool new iPhone technology.

The case demonstrates the extent to which former BFFs Apple and Google are now at each other's throats, with smartphone manufacturer HTC caught in the middle. Or maybe Steve Jobs merely woke up in a nasty mood and called his lawyers.

My take is that the lawsuit is an attempt to spread FUD--fear, uncertainty, and doubt--across the Android world. While it names HTC, the suit really targets Google, which is not named in the legal filings.

Apple clearly has the dollars--if not the sense--the pursue anyone it wants for however long it chooses. If the Apple gets lucky and prevails in its related attempt to block importation of HTC's "infringing" smartphones into the U.S., it would be a huge win, even if only a temporary one.

HTC, of course, made the first Android handset and is quite committed to the Google smartphone OS, which includes manufacturing the Google Nexus One and Motorola Droid Eris. Apple accuses HTC of violating 20 of its patents, some dating back to the mid-1990s. Seems a bit like piling on, from where I'm standing.

Just the thought of "Goodbye, Nexus One" must warm the hearts of Apple execs. Why not go for it? Apple can afford to roll the dice on this one.

The case, however, points out the need for certain patents to be licensable at fair rates, whether the patent-holder likes it or not. This is necessary for patents that cover essential technologies responsible for creation of a whole new market segments, such as smartphones.

I fully support patent rights and know that any forced licensing scheme will be hugely controversial, but it seem obvious that current patent law is out of touch with how modern innovation works.

There are some things--covered by patents--that are so simple and obvious, such as gestures, that no company should solely control them. Yet, some payment is in order for their use.

If I were HTC and Google, I'd be working around the clock to get Apple's patents out of my products, if they are actually there. Even if not, I'd want to innovate around those patents, such as the one that covers unlocking a smartphone with a finger swipe on a touch screen.

Even patent experts are loath to comment on the validity of a case or its likely outcome. Far be it from me to suggest that HTC is or is not guilty of violating 20 patents as Apple claims. Since many of those patents reportedly involve the Android operating system, Apple's action seems to involve Google as well, though the company isn't named. That could change in the future.

While Apple can say this is merely an attempt to protect its property, the company clearly has reason to be afraid of Android and this lawsuit is a result of that fear.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Applehtc

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Coursey

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?