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Apple Taps ITC to Kneecap Google

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Apple (s aapl) has enlisted the patent court and the U.S. International Trade Commission in an effort to kneecap Google (s goog). The company this morning filed a lawsuit against HTC — which makes Google’s Nexus One, among other Android handsets — claiming the Taiwanese manufacturer has infringed on 20 of its patents “related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.” But the move may have more to do with Android’s rapid growth than actual patent sins.

Apple is no stranger to the patent court, of course. The company became wrapped up in a nasty tangle with Nokia (s nok) after the Finnish manufacturer sued Apple late last year in an apparent effort to collect royalties from every iPhone sold. But today’s filing appears to be an attempt to slow Android, which has gained remarkable momentum in recent months. HTC offers the widest array of Android handsets of any manufacturer, as Kevin noted at jkOnTheRun this morning, and its Nexus One is the latest handset to be dubbed a potential “iPhone killer.” Throwing a legal hurdle at Android’s most prolific manufacturer appears to be an effort to slow Google’s roll in mobile.

And Apple’s decision to file in both the patent courts and with the ITC ensures that the lawsuit could result in an injunction barring HTC from importing its phones to the U.S. The ITC can halt imports of an infringing device into the U.S. if patents have indeed been infringed, and it doesn’t have to abide by later court rulings either. That’s a pretty big stick to swing at HTC and Google.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One

Image courtesy Flickr user attack the darkness.

27 Responses to “Apple Taps ITC to Kneecap Google”

  1. markmarks

    Authorities say Apple has sued HTC, accusing their biggest rival of violating patents relating to the iphone. Apparently many features loved about the HTC (or android) were originally taken from iphone software. Actually Samsung is in turn suing Apple for other technologies. I think these companies are abusing the way we are supposed to use patent laws. Such a “dog eat dog world”. In the end they will all lose, either money or reputation. But I guess I would also be pretty upset if a company stole my inventions and said they were theirs. I got some facts here.

  2. Apple to Android: “Take that Scud missile of yours and put it where the sun don’t shine, sucka”.

    Go Apple! There was nothing like the iPhone before the iPhone, except for the odd feature here and there. If someone steals your IP, you have to hit them back. Had Apple won in Apple v. MSFT in the 1980’s, the world would not have had to suffer thru Win95, WinME, Win 2000, WinXP, Vista, Win7– you get the idea.

    • “Had Apple won in Apple v. MSFT in the 1980’s, the world would not have had to suffer thru Win95, WinME, Win 2000, WinXP, Vista, Win7– you get the idea.”

      nods nods…oh and then the world would have to suffer with just 1 CPU manufacturer,1 motherboard maker,1 graphics card designer,1 RAM supplier and 1 everything else because NORMALLY (and it has been that way IIRC since good ole Macintosh days) Apple would tie everything from the OS right down to making it only run on own rigs on own terms?And what about software standards?The Apple way or the highway?Imagine the shape and form of computing’s free market today at that?

      Get off the Kool Aid man…

  3. RichardL

    I suspect this is also a warning shot.

    Apple had a couple of years to develop the iPhone market before there was credible competition. (You can argue all you want whether Nexus One and DROID are credible iPhone competitors.)

    Apple is on the eve of launching a major new product in a new product category. But this time competitive devices based on Google Android and chips like NVidia’s Tegra are reportedly only months behind Apple’s iPad.

    In addition to protecting Apple’s smartphone markets this appears to be is a deliberate attempt to slow development of iPad rivals and scare off also-rans who don’t have the protection of a patent portfolio or deep pockets.

    Make no mistake, this does not help consumers.

    • Assuming HTC is guilty, how does it help consumers to have one company copy another company’s patented technology instead of devising even better, faster, more efficient, more effective processes and techniques for use in building a phone?

      And if HTC is didn’t copy, they’ll be found not guilty, and the industry will have greater clarity. That’s how the process is supposed to work.

    • Yeah, so Apple sued Psystar, Media Solutions Holdings,, and Apple Corps because it couldn’t compete with them.

      And Nokia sued Apple because it couldn’t compete. That’s just as dumb.

      But whatever floats your boat.

  4. First thing first. Nexus One is not an “iPhone killer” not even close. The only handset that comes close to that title is the Pre. For all its open platform and manufacture support Google + Samsung + Moto + HTC + Sony + LG + others will always fall behind APPLE in making a “well rounded” product like iPhone.
    But the article is spot on “the move may have more to do with Android’s rapid growth than actual patent sins.” Google is attacking APPLE from all sides with half a dozen manufacturers. For APPLE the only way to counter them is to use the PATENT stick.
    If HTC left the multitouch on its phones, APPLE might have ignored them. That one feature is attracting APPLE to have a closer inspection of other phones. Things will get even interesting when Windows Mobile 7 uses multitouch.

    • No one cares about winmo anymore so probably nothing will be interesting about that hahaa I don’t mean too insult your comment but their market share has dropped dramatically, and Microsoft is probably focused more on rebuilding windows, (eg: the success of windows 7)

    • It took Nokia 2.5 years before it sued Apple. Probably one year was spent “negotiating.”

      Colin, you think it took Apple a couple of months (since the Droid/Nexus One and Android took off and Steve got mad!) to put this lawsuit together? You make me laugh. Apple has been researching and preparing since the release of the Dream/G1 about 1.5 years ago.

      It’s likely Nokia and Microsoft have been researching Apple’s patents precisely to find out how they can implement multi-touch and other things without getting sued.

  5. Not a new practice in the phone industry, that’s for sure. Hey, Nokia did it to Apple first in Oct 2009 right?

    Though Apple did sue them back for 13 patents, up from the 10 Nokia accused Apple of infringing, only a month and change after Nokia’s lawsuit too.

    To be honest though, not much of this legal nonsense really matters to consumers. It’s just companies trying to intimidate each other for more market share.

  6. I love it. The ultimate thief of ideas and technology, sueing others for doing the same thing. Makes me think of an exchange between “Jobs” and “Gates” in the really bad television movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley.

    Gates says something like this to Jobs. “Get real, would ya? You and I are both like guys who had this rich neighbor – Xerox – who left the door open all the time. And you go sneakin’ in to steal a TV set. Only when you get there, you realize that I got there first. I got the loot, Steve! And you’re yellin’? “That’s not fair. I wanted to try to steal it first.” You’re too late.”

      • There’s nothing wrong with stealing ideas. Ideas are not patentable. It’s the methods, processes, algorithms, techniques that are used to implement those ideas that are patented.

        So yes that is funny. And irrelevant.

      • Sure, do you think HTC plus Google combo is so dumb that they copied without altering the process ?

        There is a way to get around multitouch and its not the first time APPLE invented the technology.HTC can calculate the x,y location of the touches, rather than getting it directly from the screen. This has been discussed to death all over and least ten phones have this feature.

        Take out one element from the design , you can avoid
        infringement when the technology you are dealing is a “Prior Art”. The only serious thing in Apple’s claim is related to Operating system patents. The rest are hardware related. HTC can come up with multiple ways to achieve the end result.