Thursday, September 8, 2011

These are the patents Google gave to HTC to assert against Apple

Bloomberg was first to report today that HTC is now asserting nine patents against Apple that Google assigned to HTC last week.

I published some quick first comments on Google+, and meanwhile I've obtained the complaints and can list the patents-in-suit.

HTC's new assertions against Apple are spread out over three different filings:

  • HTC amended its recent (second) ITC complaint against Apple by throwing in five additional patents (the original one related to three patents),

  • amended its companion lawsuit in Delaware accordingly, and

  • filed a completely new lawsuit in Delaware over four other patents.

These are the five patents HTC added to its ITC complaint and the corresponding Delaware companion lawsuit:

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,473,006 on a "method and apparatus for zoomed display of characters entered from a telephone keypad"; originally filed by Phone-com, which assigned it to Openwave, then sold to a French company named Purple Labs, which sold it on to Myriad's French subsidiary (Myriad has Java-related litigation going with Oracle), sold by Myriad to Google last year and by Google to HTC on August 29, 2011 (recorded on September 1)

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,708,214 on a "hypermedia identifier input mode for a mobile communication device"; the assignment history of this one mirrors that of the previous patent

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,868,283 on a "technique allowing a status bar user response on a portable device graphic user interface"; originally a Palm patent, transferred a couple of times within the Palm group, then sold to Access (first the U.S. subsidiary, then the Japanese parent company), acquired by Google last year, sold and assigned to HTC on same dates as the previous patents in this group

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,289,772, same title as the previous patent, originally filed by Palmsource, then sold to Access, Google and finally HTC along the same path as the previous patent

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,020,849 on a "dynamic display for communication devices"; originally filed by Openwave, then sold to Purple Labs, Myriad France, Google and HTC along the same path as the first two patents in this group

Even though those patents appear to be related to wireless devices, the fact that HTC just acquired them about a week before its ITC complaint will raise questions in connection with the ITC's domestic industry requirement.

These are the four patents asserted in the new Delaware complaint:

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,418,524 on a "method and apparatus for over-the-air upgrading of radio modem application software"; originally filed by Motorola, sold by Motorola to Google last year, then by Google to HTC on August 29, 2011 (recorded on September 1)

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,630,152 on a "communication protocol between master and slave device with register information sharing"; same path as the previous patent

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,630,159 on a "method and apparatus for personal attribute selection having delay management method and apparatus for preference establishment when preferences in a donor device are unavailable"; same path as the previous patent except that a company named Tudor Empire in California bought it from Motorola and sold it to Google; that may be an acquisition company owned and controlled by Google, or otherwise acting on Google's behalf

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,302,947 on a "method and apparatus for loading a software program from a radio modem into an external computer"; same assignment path as the first two patents in this group

The new Delaware complaint accuses a wide variety of Apple products and services, "including, for example and without limitation, personal computers (such as the MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini), mobile communications devices (such as the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4), and mobile computing devices (such as the iPod, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle, iPod Touch, iPad, and iPad 2), alone and/or in combination with software and services (such as .Mac, MobileMe, iCloud, iTunes)". However, the complaint doesn't provide any specifics at this stage as to which ones of the accused products and services accuse which particular patent. It's hard to imagine that such a diversity of products would simultaneously infringe any given patent. I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple file a motion to dismiss in order to require HTC to be a little more specific. Federal lawsuits don't have to be nearly as specific as ITC complaints, but this lack of specificity is not necessarily accepted. This complaint appears hastily prepared, so maybe HTC won't be surprised if it needs to amend it later.

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the ITC is going to make a determination on HTC's first complaint against Apple within about a week. The deadline was September 16, 2011, and those initial determinations are frequently issued a week (or more) ahead of schedule, but yesterday it was pushed back by one month. That first ITC complaint by HTC was very weak, so maybe HTC is expecting bad news there. Also, HTC did something unusual by amending its second ITC complaint even before the ITC had decided on whether to institute an investigation.

Like I wrote in my initial reaction (mentioned at the start of this post), I'm sure Apple always knew that Google might give patents to embattled Android device makers. That didn't prevent Apple from enforcing its rights in the first place. It won't make Apple back down now. There's too much at stake for that, and it's easier to file lawsuits than to win them.

If you'd like to be updated on the smartphone patent disputes and other intellectual property matters I cover, please subscribe to my RSS feed (in the right-hand column) and/or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents and Google+.

Share with other professionals via LinkedIn: