Apple Begins Assault Against the Android

A massive new front in the smartphone war

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On Tuesday, Apple filed suit against HTC, the world's largest manufacturer of Android phones. Apple says the Android phones, which include Google's Nexus One, violate 20 of its patents--an important one being the iPhone's multi-touch functionality. The move is being seen as an aggressive attempt to wipe out Android phones from the marketplace or at least collect major royalties from smartphone manufacturers. Could Apple succeed at this? Industry analysts and patent lawyers are split.

  • Apple Wants to Wipe Out the Android, writes Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch: "The actual legal complaints... make no bones about it ... The complaint filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission specifically calls out the various HTC Android phones (including the Nexus One, Magic/myTouch 3G, Dream/G1, Hero, and Droid Eris) as the main offending products. By going after the biggest Android manufacturer, Apple is putting all Android cell phone makers--and by extension Google-- on notice ... The battle lines are now drawn." Kevin Rivette, a patent lawyer and former vice president for intellectual property at IBM, agrees:
Apple is island-hopping, attacking first the Asian companies. Then it can go after Motorola, gradually whittling away at Google's base. They want to break the Android tsunami.
  • And Apple's Suit Could Succeed  Neil Hughes at Apple Insider cites industry analyst Charlie Wolf who wrote a note to investors with Needham & Company on Wednesday:
He believes Apple has a good chance to win its suit against HTC. A victory could result in patent violators being forced to change the user interface on their devices, or be forced to not sell their phones in the U.S.

"Apple invested heavily and imaginatively in designing a unique, disruptive smartphone," Wolf wrote. "In our view, the company has every right to protect the iPhone's unique features."
  • No, It's Likely to Fail, counters Nick Bilton at The New York Times: "A ruling that would call on HTC to kill the whole phone does seem highly unlikely, especially given the prominence of the companies involved ... Many lawyers I spoke with believe this case will end up being settled out of court before it goes that far." He cites Stephen Lieb, an intellectual property lawyer at Frommer Lawrence & Haug, who said "courts had recently moved away from these kinds of injunctions. Now... they take into account the effect of banning a service or product on the marketplace, and on the public interest."
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