Feature: Apple v HTC [Guest Post]

by Guest Contributor on 5th March 2010

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In the last day or so, there’s been an astounding volume written about Apple suing HTC for various infringements. So I may as well chime in too…

As someone who’s worked in the ‘telecommunications’ industry for 15 years, I absolutely despise the present patent system. I think it’s foolish that companies like Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and the like stock up on nebulous claims of intellectual property in hopes of defending themselves from each other and the inevitable patent troll. Let me also say that despite my expression of support to Apple via my credit-card, I think this effort against HTC is on the surface pointless. However, I have no idea what sort of back-room discussions between the two companies has transpired over the past 2 years which would have led them to this point.

Now that I have that out of the way, the aspect I want to truly focus on is the volume of people running about questioning why Apple is suing HTC and not Google directly.

In my opinion (and it’s Canadian at that, so not even worth 1p) there are three aspects people are glossing over…

Firstly, for the infringements that are software related (hardware infringements are quite obviously between Apple and HTC) Apple may believe that the Sense UI is the infringing software. In that case, it’s HTC property. This argument is likely somewhat weak, given Apple cites the G1 in at least one of the infringements.

Secondly, and more likely, Apple realises that attempting to sue an open source project rarely leads to success. There are numerous examples in the software industry whereby patent holders do not pursue the ecosystem supporting an open source project, but rather the commercial entities that seek to monetise the open source project. That’s a primary reason RedHat gets sued, not the Linux community, and not the contributors to Ubuntu Core. It can happen that a patent holder will pursue the open source community, but it becomes dramatically more difficult to net any result. And of course, if Steve Jobs is truly punishing those that are profiting by “copying” Apple’s claimed Intellectual Property, then it’s HTC, Sony-Ericsson, Motorola and the like that are their target. Even in the case of the Nexus One, although Google is the channel, they’ve acknowledge HTC is the manufacturer, and therefore is primary commercial source.

Lastly, for those that claim that Apple should be pursuing Google as the “owner” of Android… You must keep in mind that Google contributed the Android software to the Open Handset Alliance. Google is but one member of the OHA.

What’s my point? Basically, I think it’s just further proof of a system in desperate need of reform. Apple could take the high road and start playing fairly in the IP game, but if everyone else is playing by the current rules and Apple start playing by new rules, where is that getting them? (It’s the same argument for why Nokia has filed suit against Apple) Therefore, if Apple is playing by the current rules, one should expect them to pursue the most successful commercial entity in the OHA / Android arena – HTC.

Title image credit: Apple patent application via beingmanan.com

Craig PykeCraik Pyke is a mobile enthusiast and part-time developer, with a background in telecoms engineering. He’s employed at a VoIP equipment provider as an Applications Architect and supports the Coral CEA ecosystem of companies in his free time. Craik is @craikpyke and is often found at http://www.coralcea.ca.

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