Google Comments on Apple vs. HTC Patent Lawsuit


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?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 32 comments. Add yours.

Google says:

This is evil vs evil case :)

SheiknetChris says:

" isn’t like Apple... to use patents offensively"
I hate to nitpick, but usually these allegations are in defense of infringement. We may well see if this is a legal move to shore up it's countersuit of Nokia.
In any case it could backfire, in an ugly fashion.

Tallbruva says:

For those too young to remember, at one point Apple and Microsoft were best-buds until a dispute over Microsoft's implementation of their point-n-click interface (better known as GUI). So Google & Apple getting tense with each other isn't surprising.
I agree with the point that this is a round-about way to get at Google. Most Android devices on the market are HTC: G1, myTouch, Hero, Droid Eris. Motorola is pulling ahead. But if they take down HTC they remove a large Android base while at the same time ensuring Windows Phone 7 never achieves liftoff, as HTC is the largest supporter of Microsoft phones.
Personally, I think Apple needs to pump that money into upgrading the iPhone instead of lawsuits. I absolutely believe there would be no Android without iPhone. But at the risk of giving away my age again, Apple has rested on its success before and it almost killed them. As a kid in high school EVERY computer was a Mac. Every. Single. One. Take a look now. Not the case. Why? Apple's claim: Our graphics are better than Windows (which was true). But they sat on that while PC clones ran wild.
Fast-forward to today. Apple has a wildly successful phone. No real innovation on it in 3 years tho. "We're No.1 with the best interface" (which is true). Now Android has appeared and is running wild. Look at Android 1.0 to 2.1. Worlds of difference. Keep in mind, Android was released in October 2008, so not even 2 years. Apple's making the same mistake again.
Apple, spend the money on development. Apple needs Android just like Apple needed/needs Microsoft.

dev says:

I believe Rene is holding that Apple tends to hold patents in reserve as bargaining chips should they get sued for their own practices (e.g. the Nokia case), not to be the one to initiate a suit.
This is mostly true, as far as it goes, however, it ignored Apple's own history of going on the offensive. Suing on the basis of patents is only a new technique, not a change of overall behavior. Like any good-lawyered company, Apple is taking advantage of legal twists written to benefit companies like them. In the Pystar case, Apple took advantage of the DMCA; in this case, they are taking advantage of the loose, questionable practices of the USPTO.
Several of patents in this case strongly echo the "look and feel" lawsuit against Microsoft a couple of decades back. The primary difference is then, Apple sued on the basis of copyright. After losing badly in that case, Apple realized the USPTO grants patents for nebulous concepts, applied for, and was granted some (IMHO) questionable patents, so that in 2010 they can sue on the basis of those patents, rather than rely on a copyright strategy that lost for them in the past.

unchew says:

i don't like sueing but htc seems to have gotten pretty blatant about the copying. At some point every company has to make other companies mind their reverse engineers. in all probability they will make a slight change so i dont think it will do much good other then reminding people be careful what you copy.

dev says:

The meme among Apple fans that Google somehow surprised or backstabbed Apple with Android also never fails to amuse. Google purchased Android, Inc (then a startup) in public transaction in 2005 -- several years before the iPhone was released, and almost an entire year before he was asked to join Apple's board.
Unless, upon placement on Apple's board Schmidt specifically told Apple that Google purchased a phone operating system startup without any intention of using it -- a concept that seems ludicriously unlikely -- there was absolutely nothing about Google's phone entry that was not completely and totally above board.

deviladv says:

@dev: I'm an apple fan but which Apple fans have been saying that Google backstabbed Apple? I've seen no articles to this point stating that. I personally see no evidence of backstabbing so I don't believe that there was any.
What bothers me about articles like this is that they make this all out to be like an episode of the Real Wives of Silicon Valley. This isn't a lovers spat, or backstabbing, or gossiping... this is business. Apple is out to make the most money possible and sometimes this means suing people. They want to defend their market position as rabidly as possible. Google and Nokia are competitors, plain and simple, no matter their prior history. Apple isn't making this personal, nor is Google. In their eyes, he who makes the most money wins. Making it out to be anything else is silly.

SheiknetChris says:

dev: Eric Schmidt was the last one to know about Android. In an interview last year Eric indicated that Larry and Sergey came up to him and said 'we bought a mobile OS' to which he practically replied 'Okay'.
I know, I know, somebody will now want me to find that article.

jzajzz says:

@UNCHEW ... what has HTC copied?

Lady Kaede says:

Deviladv speaks for me here. Also, bear in mind that if you hold a patent and do NOT sue to enforce it in the first case, that makes it almost impossible to win of you hold off and try to sue someone else later. These 20 patents cost Apple hundreds of thousands of dollars (at least) just to write and file (never mind the R&D behind the tech) - and only one of them needs to stick to hobble HTC in a huge way. If I'm HTC, I'm negotiating license fees now.

Lady Kaede says:

@Jerry. - multitouch. Probably also some power management techniques. But ultimately only HTC or a judge can have the final say.

jzajzz says:

@ladykaede.. that's fine .. but multitouch IS NOT on the lawsuit.. you guys keep saying Apple is suing for its innovations.. and none of these things are in the lawsuit...
Multitouch is not in the lawsuit probably for good reason.. Apple did not invent it... I can say Apple copied keyboard less TOuCH smartphones from HTC .. cause I know HTC had these touch phones BEFORE APPLE ..

Tallbruva says:

@Lady Kaede
Multi-touch was developed in the 80's and isn't an Apple innovation or idea. Plus, if they sue on that basis add HP, Dell, Palm and a host of others to the list because they're using multi-touch. Apple didn't get far with Palm on that front. So it's highly unlikely this is the case.
If anything Apple copied from someone else.
"...Picasso had a saying he said good artists copy great artists steal. And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." -- Steve Jobs, PBS documentary Triumph of the Nerds, 1996

LostPlatypus says:

@ Lady Kaede:
Multi-touch? Really?? As I recall, Bell Labs began work on the multi-touch concept in 1983. Two years later, the University of Toronto also began work. Did Apple do any work with multi-touch prior to this??

dr fnord says:

Found this video today, enjoy ;-)
looks like Steve's opinion changed a little

dev says:

30 seconds on google reveals multiple articles suggesting Jobs personally felt betrayed by Google. Here is just one: ( ). Heck, if going around Google feels unclean to you, you could just go back to tipb's last article on this topic, where they cite multiple such articles -- mainly blogs, suggesting this. ( ), or another on tipb that cites an article putting it in blunter terms, "Jobs hates Eric." ( )
You are seriously claiming that, for an entire year, the CEO of a corporation did not know about their largest single acquisition? That beggars belief. Even if we grant this rather dubious claim, the purchase was PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE, so even the most cursory due dilligence - having a single paralegal read the Wall Street Journal -- by Apple upon choosing Eric Schmidt would have turned up Android immediately.
Incorrect -- you are thinking of trademarks, not patents. If you do not enforce a trademark, you run the risk of losing it, but there is no such rule in patents. The courts are full of cases where a patent holder waited years before selectively targeting a single company, and won. In the smartphone arena alone, a company called NTP sued RIM, won a few preliminary rounds, and eventually forced a $612M settlement on a patent for wireless delivery of email.
These patents were not enforced immediately on RIM, or on anybody else, yet NTP still had standing to file, and in fact, by any objective measure, won.

dev says:

Actually, despite my posts here, I am not really faulting Apple for doing this. While I think at least a few of these are a little shady, and an outrageous consequence of our current patent system, Apple is only doing what any sensible company with stockholders and an eager legal team would do. While I think it will hurt the entire smartphone field, including them, in the long run, from Apple's purely self-interested POV -- the only one a public company needs to take -- I can see the logic.
I am just a bit saddened that the Apple with whom I grew up -- the Apple of the proudly waving pirate flag over the Cupertino campus and the woman throwing the hammer through the 1984 screen -- seems determined to take up the tactics and attitudes of those they once railed against.

Gwydion says:

@Lady Kaede
Power techniques?
I thinks those power techniques were in Linux kernel long years ago?

jzajzz says:

@Gwydion I totally ignored that comment by LadyKaede.. cause it's just a throw in .. to make her statement look good... She had no specifics...

Lady Kaede says:

Holy Cow! I haven't gotten this much attention since I was 16! First, I am perfectly serious about multitouch and power management, and I do notean as trademarks or concepts, but as specific methods and implementations covered by Apple's patents. I will need to go back to Engadget or Ars Technica to get you the specific patents Im referring to, but no they don't have multi-touch in the short description or body, but they clearly refer to ballistic scrolling, which is a component of Apple's (non-trademarked) implementation of what they call multi-touch. As for power management, I'd say Eve invented it in the Garden, but Apple's specific techniques for small consumer devices are apparently covered by patent (unlike Eve's) - as I said, only a judge (or HTC) - not me, not you, can say if HTC is violating a valid patent or not. Sheesh!

Gwydion says:

@Lady Kaede Ballistic scrolling is not multitouch

jzajzz says:

Ballistic scrolling is NOT MULTITOUCH .. I read the same article you read.. and did not see anything related to Multitouch ... so I don't know where you're getting it from...
The Power managemetn .. you still can't give me a reference on that from the articles you mentioned... I'm not saying they're not there... i don't remember reading them.. bu your post definitely does not make me want to check .. cause it's so vague. .

jzajzz says:

@ladyKaede .. did it all go downhill after you turn 16? .. LOL...

Lady Kaede says:

We'll let the judge decide (or HTC). I've noted your identities for the eventual crow-eating party.

jzajzz says:

@ladykaede .. u still don't get it.. even if HTC violated those patents .. THEY ARE NOT IPHONE patents.. except SLIDE TO UNLOCK ... so you want us to eat crow on the SLIDE TO UNLOCK feature?? come on..

The Woz says:

Oh the irony. Were it not for apple outright stealing GUI from Xerox, they probably would not exist in their current form. Hopefully the vagaries in many of these garbage patents will help get them thrown out and ol Jobbie can find a rock to hide under. More and more Apple is becoming what they were against in that 1984 commercial.

Bob says:

Is apple a tech company or a law firm?? I'm confused.

Lady Kaede says:

Something that hasn't been mentioned in the comments on this issue, and didn't come up on TiPb live last night: might Apple buy HTC? Steve's recently alluded to their $40 billion in cash as being partly in expectation of purchasing companies. HTC certainly has the chops to build Apple-level devices. If HTC really doesn't have cross- licensable patents Apple needs . . .

Gwydion says:

First Apple has to win the trial.

Tallbruva says:

@Lady Kaede
Now that's an interesting proposition. It wouldn't be the first time a company bought the competition to get rid of it. In the late '90s Compaq bought DEC Alpha Systems then shut it down completely.
I can see Apple doing that for the same reason. I wouldn't agree with the move tho. It would create backlash and the other manufactures such as Motorola, Dell, Samsung, etc would stand more than ready to scoop up HTC's former customers.

Taylor says:

Apple is sooooo retarded!!! I can't synce 2 libraries at once I tried to but it just erased all my other library so now I wasted all my iTune money for that crap!!! I LIKE GOOGLE WAAAY BETTER!! Also the Macs suck too! :-(

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