In the past, whether in the wrong or not, Microsoft has been the company to attack. Apparently, now there are deep (enough) pockets elsewhere to target. Not only is Google being targeted but now Apple is too, with the iPhone OS platform (that means anything that uses the iPhone OS, such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) as the primary target. The outcome may in fact make Apple unable to sell the iPhone OS products in the USA! (This, of course, is the “worse case scenario” and likely will not happen, but it is still possible.)
The first salvo came when Nokia, the biggest cell phone manufacturer in the world, sued Apple in October ’09. Nokia claimed that Apple had violated ten patents of Nokia’s in the iPhone. In December ’09 Apple counter-sued saying Nokia violated some of Apple’s patents. The result is that the United States International Trade Commission (US ITC) has got involved, meaning that now all that is left to do is wait and see what happens. (On May 5, 2010, Nokia added to its complaint that the iPad also infringed on another 5 patents. Okay, nothing too groundbreakingly surprising considering the iPad and the iPhone have so much in common.)
In March 2010 Apple sued HTC over 10 patents that are from the iPhone, prompting question of whether this was a proxy battle with Google or maybe even Microsoft (HTC is producing many of the “Google phones” available on the market right now, and has many handsets that are running Android and Windows Mobile). In response, HTC joined Nokia’s “lets-serve-Apple-with-papers” party by counter-suing Apple, claiming Apple violated its patents; HTC even went as far as requesting the ITC to ban the iPhone OS platform from the USA.
To make matters worse (for Apple), another company called SoftView is suing Apple and AT&T over their method of displaying web content on small devices, like the iPhone.
It is worth noting, however, that lawsuits from firm-to-firm are a regular occurrence in the high-tech industry; open a newspaper and chances are there will be news about how company A sued company B over violation of patents (or some other litigation). Sometimes these lawsuits have teeth, while other times they are more bark than bite; most of the time these matters are settled out of court via the exchange of royalties for the use of a particular technology. However, in these particular issues regarding Apple, no matter who is right and who is wrong, I wouldn’t want to be Apple right now! (Or maybe I would, considering how much money they are making.)
[Via multiple PCMag articles: HTC Asks ITC to Bar iPad, iPhone, iPod Imports | SoftView Files Suit Against Apple, AT&T | Nokia Now Claims Apple iPad Infringes Its Patents | Nokia Sues Apple Over iPhone Patents | Apple Countersues Nokia Over Patents | ITC Opens Apple-Nokia Probe | Apple-HTC Suit Cites Multitouch, Gesture Patent]