That HTC filed yet another patent infringement suit against Apple in their multifaceted international patent war wouldn't ordinarily warrant a mention from us, but the nine patents involved today are pretty special: they were all acquired by Google over the past year from Palm, Motorola, and OpenWave, and they were all transferred to HTC on September 1st. (To be clear, the Motorola patents were acquired by Google before the search giant acquired Motorola itself.) That's the first time Google's openly and directly assisted an Android OEM in a lawsuit, and raises a number of extremely interesting questions:
- Why didn't Google sue Apple directly?
- Did Google acquire these patents knowing they would be alleged against Apple, by Google or a third party?
- Has Google started acquiring patents for express purpose of offensive litigation, which it's promised it would never do?
- How much did HTC pay Google for these patents? Market price? Or is Google subsidizing HTC's legal defense by acquiring patents and selling them for nominal amounts?
- Will Google similarly assist other Android vendors who are being sued, like Samsung and Motorola?
- And lastly -- and possibly most importantly -- why didn't Google sue Apple directly?
Yes, I repeated a question -- it bears repeating. If these nine patents are strong enough for HTC to assert them against Apple in an attempt to change the balance in its ongoing litigation, it's worth asking why Google didn't litigate them against Apple in an attempt to secure a blanket settlement that covers all of Android for the entire ecosystem. We'll keep digging for more info, but between this development and the Motorola acquisition, it seems clear that Google's decided to start playing some legal hardball.
Update: HTC has sent us an official statement on the cases:
HTC Corporation has extended its legal action against Apple Inc., amending its existing complaints with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and U.S. District Court of Delaware, as well as filing an additional case in Delaware for patent infringement by Apple’s iOS devices.
"HTC will continue to protect its patented inventions against infringement from Apple until such infringement stops. We believe that we have an obligation to protect our business, our industry partners and our customers, who love using our products." said Grace Lei, General Counsel of HTC.