Google Defending Partner HTC Against Apple With Patent Sale

Google is helping HTC attack Apple in court by furnishing mobile technology patents that take aim at the iPhone functionality. The move shows Google is defending its partners.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has said it would come to the defense of its OEM partners as they battle Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and other litigants in court over Android. The operating system provider has apparently backed up its talk.

Google has sold nine patents to HTC to sue Apple for patent infringement, with the Taiwanese phone maker amending its existing complaint with the International Trade Commission and Delaware court against Apple over three patent infringements. HTC also filed an additional case in Delaware alleging patent infringement by Apple iOS devices and Mac computers, according to Bloomberg.

"HTC will continue to protect its patented inventions against infringement from Apple until such infringement stops," Grace Lei, HTC's general counsel, said in a statement.

The latest is a new legal salvo in a case that began when Apple sued HTC for patent infringement more than a year ago for allegedly producing Android handsets that resemble the popular iPhone. The ITC sided with Apple in July on two of its complaints versus HTC, which could put a crimp in the company's plans to sell Android phones.

Bloomberg said Google picked up the patents less than a year ago from Motorola, whose phone subsidiary it is trying to acquire for additional patent protection, Openwave Systems and Palm, now owned by Hewlett-Packard.

HTC said it paid for the patents, which include those for a "zoomed display of characters entered from a telephone keypad" from Openwave, a "technique allowing a status bar user response on a portable device graphic user interface" from Palm, as well as a Motorola technique for upgrading radio modem application software over the air.

Google declined to comment on the patent sale to its partner, though legal protection was one of the selling points around its $12.5 billion purchase bid for Android OEM Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), which commands over 17,000 patents, with 7,500 more pending.

Now Google is flexing its muscles to help OEMs that champion smartphones and tablets based on its open-source platform.

"Google knows that HTC is under tremendous legal pressure from Apple and clearly on the losing track. HTC is the first Android device maker sued by Apple, so that dispute is at the most advanced stage, and since HTC's own patent portfolio is weak, it has so far lacked the leverage to force Apple into a cross-license agreement. The possibility of HTC being defeated must have scared Google," wrote FOSS Patents and IP expert Florian Mueller on Google+ Sept. 7.

This article was originally published on 09-08-2011
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