Google Helps HTC Battle Apple, US Patent System Up For Reform

The Android platform has taken a hit from every possible contender, including Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, RIM and even the FTC.  And Google isn’t the only one affected by this, as partners using the Android platform, like HTC and Samsung, are in Apple’s crosshairs.

Yesterday’s news regarding the Oracle-Google battle included that Apple was willing to help Oracle win the case.  Apple cited how they won the HTC case and said that the same thing could be used against Google.

Well, it looks like Google is done watching on the sidelines while its partners are being bombarded by lawsuits.  They’re helping HTC win the case against Apple.

“Google knows that HTC is under tremendous legal pressure from Apple and clearly on the losing track,” says patent expert Florian Mueller.

HTC lost out in the case filed by Apple in March 2010, but that didn’t stop them from seeking justice in other courts.  They filed a counter lawsuit against Apple in a UK court last month, claiming that it was Apple who copied their patents and not the other way around.

As of yesterday, HTC filed another lawsuit against Apple in Delaware, citing that the company infringed their patents.  The patents HTC is pertaining to are the ones they recently acquired from Google.  And by recently, I mean they bought it just a couple of weeks ago.  HTC and Google refused to give details about the transaction and the cost of the patents.  But HTC was clear on one thing: they will not stop bringing Apple to court until the company stops infringing patents.  The patents were transferred by Google to HTC last August 29 and the transaction was recorded by the patents agency on September 1.

“HTC will continue to protect its patented inventions against infringement from Apple until such infringement stops” HTC general counsel Grace Lei said in an official statement. “We believe that we have an obligation to protect our business, our industry partners and our customers, who love using our products.”

HTC’s lawsuit claims that Apple products–Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touch, iCloud and iTunes–infringed patents of upgrading software wirelessly, transferring data between microprocessor and a support chip, the method of storing user preference, and the means of providing constant communication between  application software and radio modem.  The above allegations are based on four patents they recently acquired from Google, which were acquired from Motorola Inc. before the company was split into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions Inc.

Aside from the new complaint, HTC also amended a previous complaint filed with the ITC involving the same Apple products by adding five of the Google patents.  Three of the five patents were acquired by Google from Openwave and two from Palm.  The original complainant included claims that Apple copied the interface that lets users add identifiers such as .com or .org. an interface that enlarges characters being typed, a way to display information on mobile devices, and status bars that let a user check phone calls, text messages or calendar events.

Apple doesn’t seem to be fazed by this, as they stand firm on their stance that they are the one being copied, and not the one doing the copying.

“We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours,” Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, said yesterday, reiterating a statement Chairman Steve Jobs made last year when Apple sued HTC.

Later today, the US Senate will vote on amending the US Patent system.  The voting will decide as whether to stay with first-to-invent system or to switch to first-inventor-to-file.  If the second system is chosen, this will make the US patent system be like those in other countries.

With all these patent infringement lawsuits flying around, many say there is a dire need to reform the US patent system.  But could reforming the system actually make things better or would it just make things worse?  Guess we’ll just have to wait and observe.