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HTC sues Apple using Patents Google bought from Motorola

Thursday, 08 September 2011 | patent war, Motorola, Patents, HTC, Google, Apple | comments

It would not be worth mentioning that two mobile phone manufacturers sue each other. They have been doing this in such complicated ways, that the charts visualizing this became art itself. The latest one is interesting though.

It has been mostly speculated that Google bought Motorola for its patents, although some have argued that Google did it for the hardware part too. The patents part can be confirmed at least now. Google acquired around 17k patents (including applications), and it apparently has transferred some to beleaguered HTC which allegedly already has to pay up to $15 per Android handset to Microsoft (which seems to demand $15 alone), Apple and other 'innovators'.

Now Bloomberg reports (via LWN) that HTC has filed a new lawsuit against Apple, claiming that it infringes on nine patents. Patents that originate from Palm and Motorola, and which Google has acquired over the last year. Google has handed those patents to HTC, and they are firing back at Apple immediately. Am I the only one whose head starts to spin, trying to understand this?

It is no secret that I think the patent system is somewhat broken as it is. If all patent litigations were adjudicated in 2008 the total cost would have been $31,224,000,000. (nice infographics included). We live in a world where a Firm can sue Gap, Dell, eBay, Apple, Amazon, Walmart, Barnes&Noble, Microsoft, and Verizon in the same suit because of a patent to recommend alternative products before a deal has been done. I mean car dealers have been using this method in real life since the car was invented.

The situation is especially bad in software, as many patents are vague and broadly specified so that it is unclear what they cover until actual litigation ensues. It also perverts the original intention of patents to disclose knowledge so that the invention can be used by the public after it has run out.

It has been argued, that patents are needed for innovation occurs, but a study has shown that the software industry does not seem to be the main benefactor of software patents itself:

that the broad software industry (SIC 737) accounted for only 11 percent of software patent grants to public firms in 1996 and 17 percent in 2006. The prepackaged software industry account for 2.8 percent and 9.8 percent in those years respectively. Thus the software industry still accounts for a small portion of software patent grants, although that portion has increased over the last decade. Most software patents still go to non-software firms. -Bessen 2011 via Techdirt blog post