Tuesday, July 17, 2012

HTC countersues Apple over two U.S. patents it recently acquired from HP

The latest escalation in the "smartphone patent wars" is that HTC today brought infringement counterclaims against Apple in the Southern District of Florida over two patents it acquired from HP last December.

The litigation in which the Taiwanese device maker is asserting those two patents is a case that started in 2010 with a Motorola lawsuit against Apple, which later became consolidated with another action in the same district. Six of Apple's twelve infringement counterclaims in that consolidated action target not only Motorola Mobility but also HTC. HTC wants the case moved out of Miami, but its motion to transfer is still pending. In the meantime, HTC had to respond to Apple's counterclaims. In addition to the usual deny-everything-and-throw-in-the-kitchen-sink defenses, HTC also decided to hit back.

These are HTC's two counterclaims patents:

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,571,221 on "installation of network services in an embedded network server"

    HP applied for this patent in 2002.

    HTC claims that Apple is infringing on this patent with devices "including but not limited to personal computers (such as the Mac Pro, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, Mac Mini), mobile communications devices (such as the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S), and mobile computing devices (such as the iPod Touch, iPad, iPad 2, the new iPad)".

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,120,684 on a "method and system for central management of a computer network"

    Texas-based Electronic Data Systems Corporation (EDS) applied for this patent in 2002. HP acquired it in 2009 and sold it on to HTC, simultaneously with the '221 patent, in December 2011.

    HTC alleges that Apple infringes this patent with "Apple Remote Desktop, Apple Profile Manager, and/or products and services that use Apple Remote Desktop and Apple Profile Manager".

HTC has been looking for opportunities to buy patents for the purpose of countersuits against Apple. HP is a patent-rich company that can sell some of its assets and still retain enough patents to defend itself against any attacks. For now I don't see any major strategic reason for HP to support HTC against Apple.

HTC just suffered a setback at the ITC, which threw out five patents HTC had acquired from Google. The publicly-available parts of certain documents suggest that the Google-HTC patent purchase agreement was more of a patent loan. I'm sure Apple's lawyers are going to look closely at the HP-HTC agreement, but HP may very well have assigned all right, title and interest in those two patents to HTC (if the price was right).

HTC's counterclaims were brought by the Miami law firm of Carey Rodriguez Greenberg O'Keefe and San Francisco-based Keker & van Nest, which leads Google's defense against Oracle's intellectual property infringement claims.

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