In a surprise announcement earlier this week, Apple said that it is suing HTC for violating a whopping 20 patents. The lawsuit is an important one. It could set a precedent in the marketplace and allow Apple to practically control the sale and distribution of touch-based devices around the world.
It could also cripple Google's position in the marketplace, since it has relied on HTC to deliver several devices, including its Nexus One, to consumers.
But Apple doesn't care. The company is trying to dominate the mobile phone industry. And it plans to take down any company trying to beat it. That said, Apple is playing coy. The company indicated in a press release this week that all his company is doing is protecting its patents. That might be true, but in the process, if it wins the lawsuit, it could easily discourage any and all competition from delivering devices that are even remotely similar to the iPhone.
For journalists and industry analysts, the lawsuit is a goldmine of information. The court documents reveal a number of interesting facts about Apple, the iPhone, HTC and Android. Here's a rundown of some of the issues the lawsuit illuminates:
1. Remember NeXT?
Do you remember a small company from the 1990s, called NeXT Computer? If so, you'll remember that Steve Jobs started the company after he was ousted from Apple. When he made his triumphant return to the company, Apple acquired NeXT to use its software as the basis for Mac OS X. Ironically, NeXT makes an appearance in this lawsuit. In fact, it's listed as one of the "complaintants" in the suit. The reason why that might surprise you even further: Some of the patents that Apple says HTC violates are from 15 years ago and revolve around how operating systems work.
2. Apple is selling lots of iPhones
Apple's lawsuit includes an interesting fact: It sold more than 20 million iPhones in 2009 alone. No wonder the company is protecting its patents so aggressively. The iPhone has become big business for Apple. And the more people who buy the device, the more the company can capitalize through iTunes and the App Store. Make no mistake, this lawsuit is about more than iPhone software.
3. Apple hates Android
Although Apple is taking on HTC in this lawsuit, it makes it blatantly clear in the documents filed with the court that it really hates Android. Apple even purchased Android-based devices from HTC that it believes violates its many patents. It wants to give the court physical evidence to show it just how similar Apple's patented technology is to Android's operation. HTC might be the hardware vendor delivering Android-based devices, but the real issue Apple has is with the mobile OS itself. That spells big trouble for Android.
4. Google is safe
But what about Google? Nowhere in the lawsuit is Google included as a co-defendant even though the company has developed the mobile OS for vendors. For now, it seems that Google will safely stay out of Apple's sights. But if Apple wins this lawsuit, it could give it the precedent it needs to threaten Google into meeting its demands on software design. Google should be watching these proceedings very closely.