Apple vs. HTC: Power Of The Patent Numbers


jobs-iphone-androidA lot of people have been asking why Apple sued HTC rather than suing Google, Motorola or a whole group of Android-incorporating manufacturers. It seems John Paczkowski from AllThingsD may have stumbled upon the answer: HTC holds the fewest patents of notable manufacturers, putting them in a precarious situation by which to defend themselves. More specifically:

A Deutsche Bank analysis of yearly patent filings by Apple (AAPL), HTC and Google (GOOG) reveals that Apple is by far the leader and HTC the laggard. Over the past few years, Apple has amassed some 3,000 patents, HTC just 58.

“HTC has had comparatively few patent filings leading up to the introduction of the original iPhone in June 2007,” Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore explained in a note to clients this past weekend. “Specifically, HTC filed zero patents with the US Patent office between 2004 and 2007 while Apple filed 507 and Google filed 67 over the same period.”

But that huge pile of patents might not matter in the long run… check out what Nilay Patel from Engadget had to say in response to John based on his own patent expertise:

“Hey, just caught your piece on HTC’s patent portfolio. It’s interesting, and I agree with your reasoning on why Apple chose HTC over, say, Motorola, which has 1000s of patents, but remember that Apple’s entire portfolio doesn’t really matter here–it only picked 20 to litigate, and it only has to win one claim. Similarly, HTC only has to find one of its 58 patents that the iPhone infringes, which isn’t necessarily impossible since HTC’s portfolio is probably entirely mobile-oriented. I’m sure HTC will countersue here–it’s basically standard practice in this type of suit. I’d also expect Google to be named sooner rather than later–there’s no way HTC’s contract with Google doesn’t have a rock-solid indemnification clause.”

This is like the Cold War of tech patents although once you get into the semantics of which company is which country it can get a little sticky… especially depending on where your allegiances lay. Thankfully I’m not the one who has to make final legal decisions based on all this because there is a LOT at “steak” in this beef. <— (See what I did there?)

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. first.
    Also everyone should read the economist article about how we should get rid of patent laws for software. I’m too lazy to find it. It’s a couple months old.

  2. Here it is:
    Also, it talks about how patents for software might not matter soon. Maybe that is why Apple is striking now?
    “America’s Supreme Court is about to issue a ruling which, by all accounts, will make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a patent for a business process. And because most business processes are, at bottom, computer algorithms, the Supreme Court’s judgment could also bar all sorts of software patents in the process. As a result, a lot of patents for online shopping, medical-diagnostic tests and procedures for executing trades on Wall Street could be invalidated.”

  3. Great article proves an important point which is probably the main reason of this suing.

  4. It’s not the 1000s of patents that Moto had that scares Apple. It’s only one and that’s that patent for the “portable phone”

  5. On another note, I’m surprised that D Nozzle didn’t wear a mock black turtle neck under his tux jacket on Sunday night.

  6. imo htc is just creating great products, so who gives a shit about patents? its okay if u blame chinese companys for copying a device as good as possible, but similar devices are far from same and htc is actually pretty good at making the them that tidy bit better that bothers apple …

  7. I’d love to see the Open Handset Alliance get together and file a counter suit. That would shut Jobs up.

  8. ^ Agreed

  9. ^ Agreed as well.

  10. What I find bizarre is Apple is reaching way back for this law suit. patents file in the 90s? Really? If this is a battle between phones, then Apple should be made to limit themselves to the patents dealing with phones and the time frame they made phones.

  11. i really hope HTC (and Google) win this lawsuit. Apple is going to cripple the mobile marketplace (and really limit innovation). And with Apple’s hugely dominant marketshare, when are the anti-trust regulators going to step in like they did with Microsoft/Windows??

    I like Apple products but I don’t like how they play. Hand gestures are not innovative or originating from Apple. Maybe Apple has infringed on American Sign Language’s copyright. Apple just seems to want to patent anything whether of their own creation or simply a discovery that no one else has done so. Taking advantage of patenting the human anatomy or mobility is not Apple innovation.

  12. The reason it’s called a “Patent Nuclear War” is because it may work out as we feared during the cold war.
    Apple sues HTC.
    Google is named (or independently chooses to sue Apple)
    Microsoft either sues or is sued.
    I had expected a patent nuclear war over Linux years ago. Probably between Microsoft and IBM. If Microsoft goes after Linux to the point it affects IBM’s mainframe Linux business (worth $Billions), expect a patent suit from IBM against Microsoft.
    It’s interesting that a patent nuclear war may be starting in the mobile phone arena instead. It still may play out similarly to what I had expected. Replace IBM (big Linux friendly company) with Google.
    If this turns nasty, Google may suddenly recognize that it has patents, and claims within those patents, that affect EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT that Apple makes. Google could ask for an injunction to stop Apple from shipping every single product it makes until the lawsuit winds its way through years of litigation.
    I remember (hazy) back in the late 1980’s. Motorola made the 68000 processor which was quite cool. Intel and Motorola got into a patent fight. (Don’t know, don’t care, who started it.) The most important part I remember clearly was how it ended. The judge granted the injunctions of both parties against each other. Intel was enjoined from shipping any more 386 products(!), and Motorola likewise its processors. There was a settlement the very next business day. I think the judge knew how to get the parties to settle their differences quickly without having to use the court system. :-)

  13. And here I thought the free market was about innovation. Using patents this way is a crime and a waste of time not to mention how it stifles innovation. Patents should only be granted for a totally unique concept not some fractional part that anyone could think up. Probably the HTC developers would prefer to engineer better products than spend their time filling out patent journals.

  14. I’m waiting for Ford to sue other motor companies over the gas pedal, steering wheel, break pedal, radio, vehicle seats, glass on a moving vehicle, using metal alloys, and fibrous materials to construct a shell to encapsulate items for transportation, rotating engine, gas exploding in a closed but movable chamber and the other fifty thousand parts of an automobile.

  15. @reddragon72: You are praising Ford for things they did not invent. Ford was the first company with a proper mass production manufacturing line, not the first with a car. If they could patent the moving assembly line, which Ford pretty much invented, they’d be able to stop pretty much all production. Karl Benz, which later formed Daimler-Benz through some fusion with Daimler, basically has the patent for the automobile as we know it though.

  16. I’ll be so pissed if Apple wins any of this.

  17. @helmore

    Actually dragons post bout ford filing patents on the automobile would be an appropriate analogy. Apple didn’t invent most of those patents it just borrowed the idea or expanded upon it. Ex. Lowering processsor speed on hibernation. Everyones computer does that and my pda windows 2000 does it.

    On topic: Apple is shooting itself in the foot. Google will destroy them with honey, not vinegar as apple would.

  18. I guess Apple is feeling quite vulnerable seeing HTC conquering the mobile market.

  19. I think the mere fact that Apple holds some of the patents it does is evidence enough to launch a federal investigation into the possibility of bribing patent officials.

    Anyone know how to send an anonymous tip to the FBI?

  20. Ford also pretty much invented the concept of standardized, mass-produced parts, which he did with the Model T (double-check on wikipedia or something to confirm, but I think I remember that correctly). Using this logic, they should be able to sue anybody who employs an assembly line with mass-produced parts, which is pretty much any factory in the world. Back to the topic at hand, I hope somebody can put Apple in their place soon. All the patents I’ve seen in this case so far are ridiculous, and should never have been granted. Our patent system is broken beyond all reason, and is only good for one thing: stifling innovation and consumer choice.

  21. search for iPatent in the android market :)

  22. How many of these Patents that Apple has filed are FRIVIOUS?

  23. Funny, but Apple are fixing the price for the iPhone in the UK market, at least according to the sales rep in the Orange store and to the evidence I see in the pricing.

    When is someone going to stop Jobs? I can’t stand the bloke, with his meglomaniac personality and 1980s dress sense. Come one HTC and Google. I’m a big fan.

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