Apple Sues HTC (Android by Proxy?)

Apple announced that it has filed suit against HTC for violating up to 20 patents. The notion of 20 patent violations/infringements suggests that the company has been thinking about this for some time. The recent inclusion of multi-touch on the Nexus One may have been the final straw. Apple owns the multi-touch patent.

The press release doesn’t explain the precise nature of the claims:

Apple® today filed a lawsuit against HTC for infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware. The lawsuit was filed concurrently with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and in U.S. District Court in Delaware.

The interesting question is whether Apple is really going after Google/Android here indirectly. The answer: probably yes. Google is not named as a defendant but at least in the case of the Nexus One, HTC merely carried out Google’s design specifications. The Nexus One is the most iPhone-like of the Android handsets and the most competitive with the iPhone (many people think it’s superior). 

Nokia and Apple have sued each other after the failure to negotiate a licensing agreement. And there are several other lawsuits among handset OEMs going on as well now.

It’s unclear what relief or remedy Apple is seeking in this context (e.g., licensing fees, blocking certain features). However it would appear that Apple is trying to hold on to and potentially “own” a certain kind of user experience here.

An early, unsuccessful suit by Apple against Microsoft after the original Windows came out enabled the PC OS to go on to dominate the market. In this scenario and context, Android plays potential Microsoft to Apple’s Apple.