Apple's Lawsuit Casts a Wide Net

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-03-03 Print this article Print

5. Palm could be next

It's also clear from reading the lawsuit that Apple won't be content to stop with HTC. Even in a statement released this week, the company said that it will protect its patents against all competitors that it believes "steal" its technology. Realizing that, Apple might start targeting other companies in the industry that might offer something similar to the patents it's trying to protect in the HTC suit. Palm could be next.

6. It's not about multitouch

Before the world erupts with concern over the future of multitouch, we should end the discussion now: This lawsuit has nothing to do with multitouch. There is no mention made of the "pinch-to-zoom" feature. The company does not list "multitouch" as part of the lawsuit at any point. The issue revolves more around how HTC's mobile OS works and how it relates to operating system patents Apple holds.

7. It goes beyond the iPhone

Apple's lawsuit goes far beyond the iPhone. As noted above, some of the issues the company has with HTC date back 15 years when it secured patents on how operating systems work. For example, one alleged patent infringement, the "Object-Oriented Graphic System," discusses how graphics are displayed in an operating system. It was secured in 1995. It has nothing to do with the iPhone, but Apple ostensibly believes that it relates in some way to Android.

8. Unlock behavior is there

An Apple patent on how a user can unlock the iPhone with a "swipe" motion was secured in February. The company included it in its lawsuit, citing HTC phones that offer a similar functionality to help users access the main operating system. This is a big one. Apple's unlock screen is a great feature. Its competition knew that and built it into their own software packages. If Apple can win on this patent, it could totally change how users access their devices.

9. It targets Android's browser

Android's browser might suit the fancy of some users. But if Apple has its way, it will need to be reworked. One of the alleged patent infringements discusses how the HTC device lets people use their fingers to move around the screen in any direction, rather than in straight vertical or horizontal lines. So, when users move around a page in Android's browser in any direction they wish, Apple alleges that it violates one of its patents. If it wins, Android's browser could be much different than it is today.

10. iPhone screen shutoff

When a user receives a call and places the iPhone against their ear, the device's screen shuts off to save battery life and ensure they don't hit any buttons while talking. Apple alleges that it holds the patent to that technology and HTC is violating it by providing a similar functionality in its devices. The patent is specific, since it includes a touch-screen display and an ambient light sensor, but unfortunately for HTC, that means its devices might be subject to it.

Going forward, there's no telling what will happen. Apple might win its lawsuit, HTC might work out a deal, or the companies might spend years in court. In any case, one thing is certain: Apple plans to protect its patents and its iPhone. And it's targeting Android-based devices first.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel