The Nexus One, Touch Pro, Touch Diamond, Touch Pro 2, Tilt II, Pure, Imagio, Dream, myTouch, Hero, HD2, Droid Eris are the models that Apple has decided are in violation of illegally using Apple Inc. IP.
Listed below are the devices and the operating systems that they run. Touch Pro – WinMo 6 Touch Pro 2 – WinMo 6.1 Touch Diamond - WinMo 6.1 Tilt II - WinMo 6 Pure – Winmo 6.5 Imagio – Winmo 6.5 Dream - Android (1.6 donut) myTouch - Android (1.6 donut) Hero – Android 1.5 (cupcake) HD2 – WinMo 6.5 Eris – 1.5 (cupcake) Nexus One – 2.1 (clair)
The first thing to note is that on the surface this law suit does not appear solely to attack HTC’s use of Android specifically. In fact the patents in the federal part of the filings (non ITC part) seem to focus on attacking HTC’s user interface and how it is implemented over Android.
Through a reading of the non-technical descriptions of the patents, the ITC related claims question the way that one object (say a button on the home screen, or a object in the OS) requests information or action from another object (say a piece of information, system status, or starting a program) and how that process is managed. It is important to note that it is only in the ITC complaint that Window Mobile phones are referenced, and only on one of the patents in this complaint. This particular patent is also being brought up a against Nokia, although that case has been temporarily put on hold for the moment. The real confusing part here, is why is Apple bringing this type of complaint to HTC when most of these patents address core OS functionality.
In regards to the Windows devices and operating system, I believe that this argument becomes a moot point going forward for handset OEMs. With Windows 7, Microsoft has pretty much stated that they own the home screen and the OS now and that alterations are not openly welcome. As such handset OEMs will not be tinkering as much with the UI and exposing themselves to direct litigation.
In regard to Android devices, the future is a little more complicated. One of Google’s key value propositions was that handset OEMs could do whatever they like to the UI, and thereby establish their own brand over the Android OS. Now one of the top handset OEMs is in the line of fire for their UI technology that runs over Android. It can be expected that OHA (Open Handset Alliance) members, particularly the handset OEMs are going to pay careful attention to how Google manages this situation. In the short history of the OHA Google has been accused of being too powerful and having full control, not doing enough to help its alliance partners bring devices market, or suddenly becoming their competitor when they released the Nexus One device. Google has been very cautious in trying to strike the right balance of heavy hand and velvet glove, seeking to direct the ecosystem but not control it.
In this particular case, Apple is the financial heavyweight that has thrown the first punch, and HTC is the blindsided underdog struggling to develop its global brand awareness on the back of Android. Should Google offer to help support HTC’s legal defense and perhaps use them as a sheild to keep Apple from wining any groud towards the core Android OS; and if they do what type of precedent will this set for the OHA if Apple goes after every other OHA member for their custom designed UIs?
I would have to believe that Google does not want to defend the coding practices of every single Android licensee on the planet, but they do not want to alienate their partners or put Android itself at risk either. I believe that in practice, Google may attempt to make a few tweaks to Android in an attempt to minimize the potential for OEMs getting sued, but when it comes to paying legal fees, their stance will have to be ‘it’s not an Android thing’.