Android's latest indirect legal tussle to come to a head, a patent suit between HTC and Apple, was ruled on last week by the US ITC (Court of International Trade) - finding the Taiwanese manufacture liable for two counts of patent infringement. This news has spread like wildfire through every corner of the tech blog world. But is there really anything that's changed right now (or even in the near future) because of the outcome of this suit?
You've all probably heard bits and pieces of news about a company called Lodsys in the last couple of weeks, (they've been "patent trolling" iOS app developers) even if you don't really keep up on all things fruit-related. If you're not familiar with the story, let me give you a quick rundown.
Lodsys is what we affectionately refer to as a "patent troll" - a company that buys up promising and often vague or [overly] broad patents in a hope of using them to threaten to sue the pants off people that they know might be infringing on them.
File this under "things that look good on paper." On Tuesday, a federal judge for the Northern District of California issued an order forcing Oracle and Google, in their fight over various Java patents allegedly infringed by Android, to reduce the number of patent claims and defenses thereto to a "triable" number. That number? Three. And Google will be allowed eight "prior art references" to defend against those claims. (Note: A "prior art reference" is a way of showing that a patent was trying to patent something someone else had already invented prior to the filing, a complete defense against patent infringement, invalidating the patent in question)
Oracle's complaint ended up amounting to 132 patent claims against Google's Android mobile operating system - a staggering number for any court.
Well, not solely for Android and Chrome - but presumably those products are the headliners affected by this patent bid. Google is currently bidding on a collection of over 6,000 patents held by Nortel Networks, which is selling the portfolio as part of bankruptcy proceedings. Google tossed its name in the hat with an initial offering of $900,000,000 - not exactly chump change.
Many of the patents relate to wireless technology (such as LTE) and data networking, but undoubtedly Google found some of them to be in the particular interest of protecting Android and Chrome, as Google's General Counsel indicted on the company's blog.
Update: In response to the ZDNet article, it seems like Mueller may well have been incorrect about the "additional instances" of possible infringement he claims to have found. Exhibit J (linked as "6 pages of code") from Oracle's amended complaint is not addressed in the ZDNet article. We make no claims as to the validity of Oracle or Mueller's assertion; we are merely commenting on the situation.
Many people are confused about what it is Mueller is saying about copyrighted code, and it's an understandably complex topic, one I don't claim to fully comprehend.
At the beginning of the month (October 6 to be exact), Motorola sued Apple for infringing 18 of its patents, including ones as diverse as antenna design and multi-design synchronization. Of course, being a company run by El Jobso himself, Apple just couldn't help it - they just had to strike back.
And strike back the fruit-themed company has, claiming Motorola's Android phones infringe on six Apple patents, including (but not limited to) the:
- Droid 2
- Droid X
- Cliq XT
- Devour A555
- Devour i1
As if Oracle's, Microsoft's, and Apple's   suits weren't giving Android enough headache, today, Gemalto, an Amsterdam-based digital security company, added some fuel to the flames by filing a patent infringement suit against Google and its partners HTC, Samsung, and Motorola. The suit claimed that Android and the Dalvik operating environment incorporated Gemalto's patented Java Card technology without the company's permission.
The Wall Street Journal explained in more detail:
It looks like the patent war between Apple and HTC is beginning to heat up. Apple fired the opening shot two months ago when they filed suit against HTC, claiming they infringed on a number of their patents, and until today, things kept fairly quiet. However, as expected, HTC won’t give up with out a fight, and has retaliated by filing their own patent suit with the ITC asking that all imports and sales of iPhones, iPads and iPods be halted.