A new salvo has been fired in the Apple Patent Wars, as HTC filed a new lawsuit against Apple Inc. based on patents purchased from Google on August 29th of this year. The company claims Apple’s iOS and Mac devices infringe on four patents originally issued to Motorola that Google acquired over the last year, independently from its acquisition of Motorola Mobility announced in August.
“HTC will continue to protect its patented inventions against infringement from Apple until such infringement stops. We believe that we have an obligation to protect our business, our industry partners and our customers, who love using our products,” HTC General Counsel Grace Lei told Bloomberg, which broke the news of the new suit.
The company’s choice of words may be considered ironic in that the patented inventions weren’t actually invented by HTC itself, but that doesn’t change the legal weight of the patents, which are now owned by HTC. Bloomberg reported that Google acquired one of the patents in October, two in February, and the fourth one in March.
One of the patents covers a method for upgrading software wirelessly. Another is for a method of transferring data between a microprocessor and a support chip. A third is for a method of storing user preferences, and the fourth is for a method to provide consistent contact between application software and a radio modem.
If the company’s claims hold up in the legal process, it will be a big shot in the arm for HTC, which has been pummeled by Apple at both the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and U.S. courts. In ongoing battles in both venues, HTC’s Android devices have been found to infringe on at least two key Apple patents. HTC’s own patent portfolio hasn’t offered the company much protection against Apple.
Speaking of the ITC, HTC amended an existing complaint with that body with a claim that Apple is infringing on five additional patents bought from Google. Three of these patents were originally granted to Openwave and purchased by Google, while the other two were granted to Palm and also sold to Google.
Google transferred all nine of these patents to HTC on August 29th, with the transaction being recognized by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on September 1st.
The patents in the ITC case relate to an interface that lets the user add an identifier such as .com or .org; an interface that enlarges the characters that are being typed on a virtual keyboard; a method of displaying information on mobile devices; and status bars that let a user check phone calls, text messages or calendar events.
One very interesting aspect of all this is that by selling these patents to HTC for that company to use as a counter to Apple’s own patent onslaught, Google itself can no longer use them to protect other Android OEMs or itself, come the day that Apple decides to finally sue Google directly.
Does this mean that Google is so sure of its growing patent portfolio—the company will get 17,000 patents, with another 7,000 pending, if it can complete its acquisition of Motorola Mobility—or does the Mountain View, CA company view these patents as good enough for HTC, but not necessary for the larger fights?