Thursday, 30 August 2012 17:51

Apple and Google Talking About Patents; Is This About Peace, or a Warning From Google to Apple?

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There are times in the market when we see one player stand out and start to impact the performance of all the players in the group. We saw this when Rambus started suing everyone over patents they filed for while part of the JDEC standards setting group. It was a serious time in the industry and everyone learned to hate the name RAMBUS simply because of their over aggressive patents and their legal attacks around the world. Now Rambus is a shell of its former self and most of those patents are expired. The rest of the world has moved on and created new standards that RAMBUS does not have any license to.

We are starting to see the same pattern from Apple. During the Samsung V Apple trial we found out that Apple was shown a large amount of technology and designs that were later incorporated into their iPhone, iPad and iOS. These were not standards, but they were technologies and designs that belonged to someone else. Apple decided to go ahead and patent them anyway which led to the trial we saw a couple of weeks ago. Although there has been a verdict handed down the trial is far from over as Samsung is looking to either get the verdict overturned (due to many factors) or appeal the decision if that avenue fails. They have already filed a motion to have the Galaxy Tab ban lifted and want the bond money that Apple put up transferred to them. This is only fair considering the Jury did not find the Tab guilty of violating the design patent or trade dress. The jury did find that the tab violated the utility patents that Apple claimed, but the utility patents were not the primary source of the ban the design patent D’889 was. The utility features in the Tab can be fixed with an update; the design could not be.

Still history is about patterns and those that ignore them are bound to repeat them. Apple tried to wage war against Microsoft once and used some of the same basic claims they are now. The wanted to patent/copyright a UI they were exposed to (Xerox) and then sue Microsoft who was exposed to the same thing. Last time Apple lost their shirt and if it were not for Microsoft they would have been a small anecdote in the history of the computer. This time Apple waited a little longer and also has considerably more money to throw at lawyers before they made their attack. They have still patented items that existed long before they laid claim to them and have a much more loyal fan base than before. Still they are heading down the same road as they did back then and as RAMBUS did in the late 90s early-2000s.

Just like the Apple of old and RAMBUS someone tried to step in and show them what could potentially happen. With RAMBUS it was VIA (and to a lesser extent Intel). With Apple this voice of reason appears to be Google. When Apple was busy suing every Android Phone maker and leaving Google out of the mix things were fairly easy. Now Google owns their own phone maker in the form of Motorola, a company with a significant number of patents up their sleeve. These are now combined with the patents that Google owns on Android and other items. They have launched their own offensive against Apple at the ITC and while their one standards essential patent was dropped the full ITC commission has asked the original judge in the case to look at a non-standards essential patent again. This opens up the potential for sanctions against Apple in the US. Google has also filed a second complaint against Apple with the ITC and this time they are asking for a full ban on all devices (including Macs).

Over the last few days there have been rumors about Apple and Google talking patent peace, but the question is who started the talks? It is unlikely that Google did this out of fear of Apple as they do not really have anything to worry about. Apple has so far been unable to attack the stock Android OS for patent or copyright violations. Apple could go after Motorola, but it is unlikely to at this stage. What is most likely the source of the phone conversations between Cook and Page is a simple reminder of how bad things can get for Apple in the coming months if they pursue Google directly. Apple and their fan base are high on their victory right now, but it is important to remember that the Jury’s decision is starting to look very flawed to many including some of the original experts that claimed the jury did their job properly. The fact that more people are seeing the flaws in the verdict as the jury foreman continues to talk is a bad thing for Apple. The communication between Apple and Google could be a very friendly warning about pushing forward for future litigation.

Remember Apple needs to put in LTE and a few other technologies into the next generation iPhone to compete with devices that have been on the market for two years or more. Some of the technology involved in this is patented by Motorola and by Samsung. That is a potent combination considering that we are hearing that some of the patents in question are not standards essential so they cannot be exhausted. Apple’s habit of using other people’s technology without paying for it and then attempting to sue everyone else will come back to haunt them. They might be riding on an ego high right now, but as we have seen far too many times in the past those rarely last. Samsung has a few tricks up left to play even with the current trial while Apple does not have much left to fight with. We have a feeling that in 31 days (the time limit Judge Koh has given Apple to respond for Samsung’s post-trial motions) things could look very different indeed.

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Read 3222 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 August 2012 18:01

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