Without being asked, Google decided to whip out an email to TechCrunch anyway and comment on the Apple vs. HTC patent lawsuit announced yesterday:

“We are not a party to this lawsuit. However, we stand behind our Android operating system and the partners who have helped us to develop it."

This is interesting in light of suggestions that the real target of Apple's patent offensive isn't HTC but rather Android and Google. While some maintain it isn't like Apple (or at least the crunchy, hippy Apple they hold dear) to use patents offensively, when combined with HTC (read: Google) as target, could it begin to make more sense?

With Nokia, Apple merely counter-sued, to go on the attack against HTC has led to speculation that, because of Google, it's personal.

The Apple/Google relationship has been the subject of a lot of chatter lately as the once closely-tied partners have become increasingly competitive. As Gizmodo pointed out yesterday, Google CEO Eric Schmidt sitting on the Apple board -- whether or not he recused himself from iPhone discussions -- and then turning around and releasing Android and Chrome OS, when coupled with allegations that Steve Jobs told employees he believed Google was trying to "kill the iPhone", more than hints at a possible motivation.

9to5Mac also notes the lawsuit was filed one month to the day after Google enabled multitouch on the Nexus One, which was 6 months after Eric Schmidt resigned from the Apple board.

Sure, Steve Jobs made it a point to defend Schmidt at the recent Apple shareholder meeting, and Google keeps saying things are "stable", but the best of friends can become the bitterest of rivals. Given the current patent system, Apple has a right to defend their technology -- in the case of Google, they could have far more incentive to

If that's the case, then Apple hasn't changed at all -- when's the last time we heard about feeling screwed and not retaliating?