Monday, December 6, 2010

Visualization of Apple's patent dispute with Android phone makers Motorola and HTC

With all the patent litigation surrounding smartphones these days, it's increasingly difficult for everyone -- even for analysts and reporters -- to keep track of what's going on.

In addition to commenting on new events (such as the moves Apple made in early December), I'd like to help everyone to see the forest and not just the trees. That's why I've scoured thousands of pages of court filings in order to put the most important information into a more digestible format.In the first part of what will be a series of documents, I have published the following 25-page PDF that visualizes the patent disputes between Apple and Android device makers Motorola and HTC:

Apple vs Android 10.12.02

The best way to view the document

While it's technically possible to click through the slides above, I strongly recommend that you either click on the blue word "Fullscreen" or download the PDF from and then view it with a PDF reader in full-screen mode. Otherwise it can be very hard to decipher the text in the bubbles that explain the procedural moves and the text on the reference pages.

The first page of the document shows the current state of affairs in those disputes: all the players, all the patents, all the courts. Don't even try to understand that one initially :-) It's more fruitful to walk through the slide show page by page and see how all of that complexity came into being. One step at a time.

The 13 pages following the title page are a graphical chronicle that explains the escalation of the conflict move by move, starting with Apple's suits against HTC back in March 2010.

Thereafter, I have summed up the key data of the different processes, including the complete patent numbers (the slides only show the last three digits of each patent number to save space) and titles. In that reference section (11 pages), you can also find the products against which the different patents are asserted. In cases where the relationship between asserted patents and accused products is very complex, it is shown as a matrix.

The colors I have chosen are usually related to the logos of the relevant companies. Apple's dark green and HTC's light green don't make a perfect contrast, but they are distinguishable and I want to be able to use consistent colors even in charts that will show larger numbers of players than just the three protagonists of this particular document.

Updates and additional documents will come

I am still working on such documents related to Apple's dispute with Nokia, Microsoft's dispute with Motorola, and Oracle's litigation against Google. I will publish those documents over the next couple of weeks.

As the processes evolve, I will update those visualizations and reference lists every step of the way. There's a lot of activity in those disputes. Litigants add and drop patents; suits or parts of suits can be transferred from one venue to another; and at some point we should see at least partial settlements, or (if all else fails) court rulings.

Since there will likely be many updates over time, it's important to pay attention to the version number of such a document. The format is YY.MM.DD.VVV: year/month/day of the procedural state of affairs (02 December 2010 in the above example) and a three digit version number (in the above document, "100" corresponds to version "1.00").

These are complex issues, but there's tremendous interest in them because the stakes are sky high. I believe that with visualizations and reference material like this, everyone with an interest in this (for professional or other reasons) will have a better-than-ever chance to see the forest and not just the countless trees.

[Update] Two weeks later I published a one-page overview of ITC investigations involving the players mentioned here (and also Nokia and Microsoft), with a particular focus on the accused products:

Smartphone-Related ITC Overview 10.12.20

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