Apple, Motorola, Android Lawsuits a Tangled Web of Charges

News Analysis: You need a copy of Cliff Notes to sort out all the claims and counterclaims in the lawsuits involving Apple, Motorola Android and Microsoft, but not directly involving Google-so far.

You'd think this would be an easy story to write. You start off with a leading paragraph that says, basically, that everybody is suing everybody else. You could describe it as a sort of a rugby scrum, but with suits and briefcases. And believe it or not, it seems there are even more players than a rugby scrum-lots more.

The ruling instinct in this case seems to be that when you're not having enough fun making tons of money, why not have even more fun trying to keep someone else from making quite so much money too?

If all of that sounds confusing, that's only because it is. As of today, as far as I can tell, Apple is suing Motorola over the use of multitouch, which was actually invented by Microsoft. Microsoft is suing Motorola over something obscure related to Android-I'm guessing it's the use of something called "software," which was actually invented by Grace Hopper.

Meanwhile, Motorola is suing Apple for more alleged infringements. Surprisingly, nobody is suing anyone else for the use of "radio," which was invented by Loomis (not Marconi, although by the time Marconi came along, Loomis was dead and couldn't sue).

If this weren't such a time-honored tradition in the technology business, I'd bemoan how those resources could be better used to do something like inventing products with working antennas. But that's kind of beside the point. After all, Robert Goddard's widow sued NASA and won because the soon-to-be-out-of-space space agency was using Goddard's invention of the liquid fuel rocket without permission or royalties. NASA had to pay up, not that it made much difference in NASA's ability to run a space program.

I could go on and talk about the suit by engineer Philo Farnsworth: Farnsworth sued RCA and its leader, General David Sarnoff, over the royalties for his invention of something called "television." Like Mrs. Goddard, Farnsworth won, and went on to invent useful technology gadgets such as nuclear weapons parts.

But in this case, we're talking about a pair of guys named Steve. One of them really has been an innovator and there's no question about his contributions to technology. The other is primarily a business executive, but he's been the enabling force behind some innovations as well.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...