Enterprise Mobility: Google, Apple, Oracle, Others Locked in Android Patent Suit Showdown
Oracle vs. Google
Oracle in August 2010 sued Google for patent and copyright infringement over Google's use of Java in its open-source Android operating system. Oracle, which purchased Sun Microsystems and renamed it Oracle America in January, accused Google of infringing seven Java patents and other copyrights. The latest argument is over how much Google would have to pay Oracle for damages if the database software maker wins. It could be $3 billion or more, with damages and licensing fees factored in. Oracle is also reportedly seeking licensing fees of $15 to $20 per gadget from Android OEMs.
Apple vs. Samsung
Apple has pending patent infringement cases versus the major Android OEMs, including Samsung, HTC and Motorola. The most acrimonious is Apple vs. Samsung. The two companies are suing each other in a vicious legal battle on multiple fronts. In the continuation of a legal battle that began in April, when Apple said Samsung "slavishly" copied the iPad and iPhone to build the Galaxy Tab and Galaxy S lines, Apple filed a U.S. trade complaint that seeks to block imports of Samsung Electronics Co.'s Galaxy S smartphone line and Galaxy Tab tablet computers. Samsung, meanwhile, filed patent infringement claims to block imports of Apple's iPhone and iPad. The humorous/serious picture from Jay at The Church of Apple sums it up.
Microsoft vs. Motorola
Next up is Microsoft versus Motorola. Microsoft sued Motorola in October 2010, alleging that the company's Motorola Droid line and other Android smartphones violate nine of its patents. "The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola's Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience," said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing. The functionality in question includes "synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power." Motorola would return the salvo a month later, alleging infringement of 16 patents by Microsoft's PC and Server software, Windows mobile software and Xbox products. Microsoft, which licenses smartphone technology to HTC to avoid a legal tangle, is also targeting Samsung for licensing royalties.
Apple vs. HTC
In one of the first suits filed against Android OEMs, Apple sued HTC in March 2010, claiming HTC violated 20 of its patents surrounding the iPhone's interface, architecture and hardware. HTC vowed to fight the suit, and the game has been on since. On July 11, Apple filed a second complaint alleging patent infringement and seeking a ban on the import of "portable electronic devices and related software" in the U.S. That includes the HTC Flyer tablet.
Skyhook Sues Google
In a fascinating case, Skyhook has filed two separate suits again Google. One is for interference, the other patent infringement. Skyhook alleged in September 2010 that the search engine giant cost it tens of millions of dollars by trying to cut in on its contract with Motorola, which makes smartphones that leverage location services. Eventually, some potentially damaging emails surfaced that seem to indicate Google was acting in a rather un-Googley fashion. Read about Muellers take on the patent infringement suit here.
Apple vs. Motorola
Three weeks after Motorola sued Apple over smartphone-related patents, Apple filed two suits alleging Motorola handsets such as the Droid, Droid X and Droid 2 infringe on six patents dealing with ways users access the handsets. Apple claimed there is an infringement on patents for multitouch and other touch-screen-related technologies.
Microsoft-Barnes & Noble/Foxconn/Inventec
Microsoft trained its formidable legal guns on Barnes & Noble and manufacturers Foxconn International Holdings and Inventec over the Android-based Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. "The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft's patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for intellectual property & Licensing, wrote in March 2011. Microsoft created a patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers; Barnes & Noble declined to join. Hence the suit. Barnes & Noble accused Microsoft April 25 of demanding an "exorbitant royalty" for a patent license for Barnes & Nobles Nook Color.
Gemalto Sues Google/Samsung/Motorola/HTC
Smartcard maker Gemalto sued Google, Samsung, Motorola and HTC over the Android application platform and development tools. Gemalto owns patents for running Java on low-footprint devices like phones. Gemalto said the Dalvik just-in-time Java engine in Android 2.2 copies its earlier technology.
Interval (Paul Allen) vs. Google, et al.
After whiffing on an earlier complaint, Paul Allen's Interval patent-holding group relaunched a patent-infringement lawsuit against Apple, Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Yahoo, Office Depot, OfficeMax, YouTube and Staples. The four patents involve technologies related to e-commerce and online browsing, such as online user alerts and ways for drawing users' attention to a nearby screen.
PayPal vs. Google
Finally, eBay's PayPal unit accused Google of stealing two employees, who then used its trade secrets to help build the Google Wallet mobile payment service. PayPal is suing Osama Bedier, vice president of payments, and Stephanie Tilenius, vice president of commerce for Google, over the matter. "It's not about the core of Android--but about NFC, which one might argue is a key component for Android going forward," argued Florian Mueller. Indeed, Google expects mobile payments to be a core application for Android smartphones going forward. There is a lot at stake here, as evidenced by the eBay suit.