Apple's intellectual property quest has traditionally gone after manufacturers and their dubiously familiar form factors, but now it looks like the company is aiming straight at Google and Android 4.0: Apple has filed a new motion in the US for a preliminary injunction that would ban the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Google's flagship Android device.
While Samsung has been the target of Apple's ire with a barrage of other lawsuits, the Galaxy Nexus' hardware isn't really the center of attention here. Since the claim is specifically about key software patents in Android 4.0, other manufacturers putting the latest stock Android OS on their devices could be open to similar lawsuits if the court rules in Apple's favor.
Here are the patents at stake:
- US Patent No. 5,946,647 - this patent was filed in 1996 (issued 1999) and covers detecting data, such as a phone number, in an email or web page, creating a link to that data, and initiating an action like calling the phone number when the user selects the link. The data could also include addresses, dates, etc.
- US Patent No. 8,086,604 - this patent claims priority back to 2000 (issued Dec. 2011) and covers searching multiple sources of information (on device and elsewhere) through a single search interface, such as Siri. Apple specifically touts Siri in its injunction request, but also argues that a unified text search is covered by the patent as well.
- US Patent No. 8,046,721 - this patent claims priority back to 2005 (issued Oct. 2011) and covers Apple's signature slide-to-unlock feature. While Apple already has patent coverage on an image unlock feature, this newest patent is obviously intended to be a bit broader — likely addressing potential workarounds implemented by Google and OEMs over the last couple of years.
- US Patent No. 8,074,172 - this patent was filed in 2007 (issued Dec. 2011) and covers providing word suggestions while the user types on a touchscreen keyboard, where the suggestions can be accepted or rejected by the user.
Apple already won a ruling over patent #5,946,647 back in December, when the US International Trade Commission banned the importation and sale of HTC Android devices including the Sprint Evo 4G, Verizon Droid Incredible, AT&T Aria, and T-Mobile G2. The other patents in Apple's new claim are relatively new — all having been issued in late 2011 — so we'll have to wait and see what the court decides. We'll be monitoring the progress of Apple's new patent suit closely, and will update you accordingly.
Matt Macari contributed to this report.