back to article Google feeds patents to HTC for assault on Apple

Android phone manufacturer HTC has sued Apple using nine patents it bought from Google. And Google acquired four of the nine from Motorola. As reported by Bloomberg, Google transferred the nine patents to HTC on August 29, and HTC filed suit against the Jobsian cult on Wednesday. The suit marks a turning point for Google, …


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  1. jake Silver badge

    One question:

    Do any of the so-called "patents" actually cover anything that wasn't industry standard practice before the company that initially applied for the patent was formed?


    That's what I thought ... The US patent system is totally, completely, and utterly fucked up. This is from a severalth generation USAian ... I can only apologize for my government's fucktardary, and attempt to vote the idiots out at every opportunity.

    1. Phil 54

      Apology accepted

      Although I doubt that patent reform will ever become an election issue

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Apples patents might be mostly a load of useless horseshit given the amount of prior art, but given that Motorola pretty much invented mobile communications as we know it, i'm guessing Google's patent assets are going to be slightly more worthwhile.

      Of course AO will be along soon to try and discredit Google and their patents somehow.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


      I applaud your sentiments and appreciate you actions, but unless and until governments in all countries actually employ people who understand technology and their own patent system, all politicians from any administration will be taking advice from interested parties.

      These interested parties are often the people most likely to gain from a strong and all-encompassing patent system, and who have deep pockets so can 'voluntarily contribute' to the process, and will not give unbiased advice. This is especially true in the US, which to me as an outsider, it often looks like the government (of all parties) is actually run by big business.

      Some of the statements made by the current US administration and echoed by the Europeans sound good, with words like 'reduce administrative costs', 'reuse patent searches during applications in multiple jurisdictions', but when you look into them, it is not suggested that pre-grant verification will be any stronger or with any greater rigour, but merely to make the application process easier, leading to still more stupid, un-enforceable patents going on the books.

      The patent system was designed to protect small inventors. The way it has been corrupted means that it now does exactly the opposite.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Peter Gathercole

        We've traded verbiage over the years.

        But I can't remember ever actually disagreeing with you.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          horses for courses....

          the thing with the way the big companies play the games in the courts waving patents at each other, we the consumer and tech people all hate it because we all know that the result is the stifling of new creative technologies.

          but because the patent system is the way it is, they are all just playing by the rules of the game. Each and every one of us, if we were in the shoes of apple, google, microsoft, htc motorolla and the reset of the gang, we would all be doing the same thing. If you didn't, you would be failing the company and it wouldn't take long for you to have a worthless company and product list on your hands...

          you have to play the game within the rules presented to you.... if you dont like the rules, dont play the game or get the rules changes....

          fix the damn rules of play.....

    4. Random Handle


      >Do any of the so-called "patents" actually cover anything that wasn't industry standard practice before the company that initially applied for the patent was formed?

      Quite a lot given before them there weren't any mobile phones and most handset manufacturers have agreements in place. Now that Google know the extent of Apple's licensing of Moto patents and IP agreements/exchanges, things must be interesting for the lawyers.

      People have short memories when it comes to Apple damp squibs, but Apple's first mobile phone was a joint venture with Motorola not the iPhone.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Random Handle

        I had personal mobile communications in 1983. Voice and data.

        The dates on these so-called "patents" are ... when, exactly?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Maybe you did

          but if you check who invented it, you will find it was Motorola

        2. Paul Shirley

          @jake: your 1983 phone

          ...would be 1G and have no relevance to a modern digital phone.

          2G turned up in 1991 and is still in use and should still (just) have active patents.

          EDGE deployed in 2003 and iPhone 1 was EDGE. Those patents very much in play.

          3G around 2001, again patents nowhere near expired.

          There's plenty of new phone radio IP to infringe since 1983 ;)

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            And tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

            ...he misquoted.

            It seems to me that parts of a 1G phone are doing the same things as a 2G, 3G, or 4G phone, or for that matter a desktop PC or a web server, and shouldn't be limited by new patents. And other parts, of course, are innovative. But it seems that I'm wrong and the whole thing is re-patentable every time there's a new form factor or protocol. I won't be surprised if you show me new patents for the 3G phone keypad. "An Interface for Making Number-Coded Calls from a 3G Phone Handset." And it turns out to be a dial where you push a finger into a numbered hole, pull it around, and let it go so it returns to its original position. And if that isn't patented yet, hey, I just invented it.

    5. N13L5

      They'd have to spend a lot more money on staffing the patent office... short of that, I'd have a quick fix:

      Match the duration of patents to the speed of the relevant market.

      So electronics patents would get something like half the duration of mechanical patents, and software patents half the duration of that.

      After all, the original idea of the U.S. founding fathers was to have patents only to allow inventors to have a small head start to recoup expenses and make some money, but not to build monopolies and slow down the country as a whole just to fill their coffers for decades.

      200 years ago, decades didn't mean much, invention of new stuff was slow. So, I think patent durations that were set in stone back then are as much of a problem as the granting of patents with crap-loads of prior art.

  2. Eddy Ito

    How long 'til intermission?

    My beer is almost empty and I need more popcorn. Damn, and it's just starting to get good.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      oh no!

      I was in the toilet. What did I miss?!?!

      1. Adam-the-Kiwi

        Re: What did I miss?!?!

        Big company buys patents from another big company (who, in turn, bought them from a big company), uses them to counter-sue yet another big company who were suing them for infringement of patents they bought from a big company. Not the same big company, clearly.

        Lawyers seen leaving with truckloads of hard cash. Consumers pay a little more than they need to.

        All caught up now?

        To be honest, I'm thinking of recording this one and watching it when I'm really bored. It seems a bit slow and derivative...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      it's like a LoTR battle

      just not sure which one of them is Sauron.. ..maybe both?

      lawyers are definitely the trolls though.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More please

    Am unclear about the penultimate para of the article. So are these patents that they bought with the 12bn or not? If not, it might be worth drawing that out a bit more, especially as previous comment on the Reg has suggested that the patents they got with the big acquisition are a bit weak as they mostly cover radio rather than UI. Would also be nice to have a bit more on what they do cover, to show how it fits in to the wider jigsaw.

    1. Paul E

      why would radio patents be week...

      As Samsung are likely to do with their gallery app you can recode to get round many UI patents but if your phone uses unlicenced radio tech then it would be a lot harder I suspect to make changes to get round the patent?

  4. auburnman

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    It's nice to see HTC finally has some firepower of it's own to resist being trampled though. More power to the (Comparitively) little guy.

    I do wonder however what effect this will have on the licencing fee HTC pay Microsoft over Android? Surely Google would like to see that uncomfortable precedent reversed.

    1. sleepy

      HTC will be fine either way

      Apple won't stop them making smartphones. Just ones that look exactly like an iPhone. So that'll be Windows phone.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would it not be funny

    If a court decided to ban the import of iphone 5's because of patent infringement by Apple. Would definitely be a case of those that live by the sword die by the sword...

  6. Dirk Vandenheuvel


    Can Google get even more pathetic?

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Can Google get even more pathetic...

      ....than Apple? Well, they're trying, but they've got a way to go....

  7. Paul 185

    vote them out?

    And who are you going to vote in that promises wide scale patent reform?

    1. David Dawson


      I'll do it!

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      They don't know what you want unless you tell them.

      Write to your candidate and say "I want the patent system to be rationally reformed. If you agree, I have a lot of money to give to your election campaign." But check first, because it may turn out to be not quite legal to do that - I'm not an expert. Maybe it should be two letters in separate envelopes, or something. One with the thing about patents and one with the money.

    3. jake Silver badge

      @Paul 185

      It's pretty simple. If your local politicians aren't working for your interests, vote against the incumbents. Not exactly rocket science, now is it?


      1. Richard Gadsden

        You can't vote against anyone.

        Really, the electoral system only lets you vote *for* people. You can't vote against someone, just for someone else.

        And, no, that's not the same thing. For a start, you'd better make sure that the person you're voting for is *better* than the one you're not voting for, or else you're setting yourself up for even more disappointment.

        Elections are not about an absolute standard, but a relative one - you vote for the best candidate (or least worst; comes to the same thing), you don't get to say "this one isn't good enough, let's have someone else" - because you can't vote for "someone else", you can only vote for the candidates on the ballot paper.

        Take, as an example, the 1991 Louisiana Governor election. Edwin Edwards (the Democrat) was corrupt - he eventually went to prison in 2002. But the Republican was David Duke, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. There's a reason that the campaign slogan was "Vote for the Crook. It's Important".

        If you want a better candidate, then stand yourself, or find a friend or acquaintance that you think would do a better job and talk them into standing. It's not the fault of the bad candidates that there aren't better ones - it's the fault of the people who would be better ones for not standing.

      2. L1feless



        Most of what you've said thus far I have agreed with with the exception of this incumbent comment. You must vote with a purpose not just blindly. By merely voting against the incumbents it may not yield change. Even if it does yield change it may not yield the type of change you wanted. The only real way to initiate major change is to attempt to rally enough of the general population to shout the same message and agree on their demands. The point will come where it becomes detrimental to any of the politicians running not to listen. One can also argue that this is part of the flaw in the current government. The peoples politician is voted by a simple majority but what if a candidate which the people want does not exist and therefore the majority of the population doesn't vote...

  8. Steven Roper
    Thumb Up


    Now we get to see some of the biggest and most powerful corps on the planet banding together to flatten this pathetic, litigious parasite of a company into the dirt where they belong. More popcorn please!

  9. Velv


    If the Patent Wars of the early 21st century continue it can only end in Mutually Assured Distruction


  10. noodl

    "Jobsian cult"

    Can we please drop this nonsense tag now he's stepped down? El Reg's obsessively negative reporting of anything Apple related (apart from actual product reviews) is getting really tedious.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      He's still Grand Wizard or something.

      Admiral of Starfleet, whatever. Probably with a lower case i in front of some of the words.

      1. dssf

        Or, he's Brother Cavil... he'll turn up again, though.

        But, the the two dissenting lowers might have removed some of the tele-encephalic inhibitors in some of the Raiders. Maybe some of the Centurions may become angry...

    2. Zippy the Pinhead


      Apple Fanbois it is then

  11. CypherCookie

    Do they even check patents before issuing them?

    From all the articles that the reg has been posting i'm left wondering if the USA even bothers to check the patents before issuing them to companies! I mean wtf! Seriously how many patent infringements need to be highlighted before someone goes, oh well we didn't actually check them, we just signed off on it and thought nothing more of it!

  12. Greencat

    Turning into Monty Python

    This is getting utterly ridiculous and in the end everyone (except a few lawyers) will be poorer for it.

    It's going to stifle innovation and push up costs. The current patent system is like the tech equivalent of derivatives market - only encourages parasites and liable to blow up in your face.

  13. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    If these patents were sold, not licensed, to HTC... that now very bad for Samsung? I mean, Apple's going hard after -them-.

    I've got the first model Galaxy Tab: it's a phone. SMS and Android Market and everything.

  14. Paul 185
    Thumb Down


    Really, so because this one policy is different to what you want, you'll vote against them? I'm just interested, as none of the major parties seem to have decent patent reform policies. Voting out the democrats will just get you republicans instead. Good trade?

  15. Paul Shirley

    Google policy it to ignore the press

    A timely reminder to the press that Google's silence means very little.

    Google simply don't talk to outsiders until there's product to pimp. Don't fight every battle through the press. Don't habitually trash talk the competition *in public*. And they sure don't seem to respond to a desperate press filling in the blanks with hysterical guesswork.

    Hell, they don't even talk to their customers!

    Highly frustrating if you're a dev or customer, even more frustrating for journalists used to Microsoft, Oracle, SCO etc. feeding them torrents of material. Time the Reg accepted that instead of letting the skeptics run the show, might be a little less surprised when things like this happen.

  16. Earl Jones Of Potatoes

    who is your daddy

    google acting like a pimp sending his new bitch friend for a fight.

    Google to HTC : who is your daddy!

    HTC to google : you are my daddy.

    Google, that's right biatch.

  17. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    What I'd like to know is the contents of these patents.

    Are they, for instance, non-obvious innovations involving the design of the chips inside the phone, which are the result of lots of hard work, or, as I suspect, trivial one's like Apple's along the lines of 'make the screen flat and give it rounded corners'.

    The problem at the heart of this is really the system that allows obvious patents, or ones with clear prior art, to be granted with little or no checking, on the premise that they will fall when challenged. The net result of this is the transfer of money to lawyers when this happens.

    Equally disturbing is the granting of patents on things like software (where copyright is much more appropriate), or on naturally occurring genetic sequences, such as those found in some human cancers, in order for a biotech company to gain a stranglehold on supplying the genetic tests for such. Hands up anyone who thinks it is a good idea to gouge as much money as possible from cancer sufferers* for their own diagnostic tests?

    Of course, the aim on the patent system (to protect innovators) is noble, but the effect does not marry up. I'd suggest that a reformed system would involve the thorough checking of new patents, and the restriction of total licence fees to a small multiple of the cost of the work involved in developing and registering the patent. That way, invention is rewarded, nobody gets to invent one clever thing and live off the proceeds for the rest of thier life, and the IP eventually enters the public domain and benefits everyone.

    * either directly, or via health insurance, paid for by said patient, or in the UK from the NHS, paid for by taxation.

    1. tybalt


      The system doesn't allow patents to be granted with little or no checking. The USPTO generally does a pretty decent job of searching, and then make a robust assesment of patentability based on the statutes and case law that determine patentable subject matter in the US.

      FYI, you can look at the case file history for US patents online - google US PAIR, type in the patent number, then click on "image file wrapper", then download all the docs to pdf. Then you will get some idea how it actually works.

      The US have different rules on patentable subject matter from many other jurisdictions, and are slightly unusual (but not unique) in allowing patents for methods of treatment of the human body, business methods. Not sure what the rules are in the US, but in the UK a gene sequence found in the human body is inherently unpatentable as such under schedule A2 of the patents act. An isolated gene sequence can be patented only in conjunction with an industrial application, which is fair enough, given the cost and effort required to do the research that identifies the industrial application, and the ease of replicating such applications once they are demonstrated.

      Software patents is a can of worms, and rules vary widely in different jurisdictions. Again, the US has a more generous view of patentable subject matter than the UK or European Patent Office.

      Your idea of restricting license revenue to a small multiple of the cost of the development is unworkable. What if someone doesn't license, but instead just stops anyone else from using while enjoying monopolistic pricing? What about all of the patents that do not generate a return? Why shouldn't someone be allowed to invent one clever thing and live off the proceeds? The guy who invented and subsequently licensed the workmate to Black and Decker did pretty much just that. What would you say to James Dyson, who built a sucessful company off the back of his patents?

      I'm all for toughening up the examination process, and for the US to reform its rules on patentability. At the moment I think that the odds are a bit stacked against Examiners. I don't think they are paid nearly as much as the patent agents, and it's difficult to argue sucessfully and robustly if you are unequal in time/training/expertise./resources

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    possible outcomes

    a) Patents are nixed; HTC still blocked from cloning iPhone via Android; other OEMs lose interest in Android.

    b) Apple buys patents from HTC while giving them an exclusive license. Other Android licensees therefore blocked; Google-Moto forced out of smartphones.

    c) Apple pays; at worst buys HTC outright for cash.

    iPhones are here to stay. Apple's business model doesn't work for 100% market share, so Apple will ensure the others have a place, as long as it doesn't involve cloning Apple products.

    Regardless, this saga is some of the best entertainment on offer in technology with multiple stories every week.

    1. Paul E

      I think there are a few more likely outcomes that are not the Apple win that

      you appear to predict.

      If the patents HTC are using are shown to be invalid Google has a lot more now where those came from.

      I suspect google included conditions on the sale of the patents that would stop them being sold to apple or someone else to be used against them so your option B is highly unlikely.

      I suspect the final outcome is that there will be no outright winner but that apple will feel pleased that they have delayed the onward march of android by a few months.

    2. David Dawson

      Are you being deliberately ignorant, or just wanting to stir things up?

      Either way, you got a response, so, fair play.

  19. b166er

    So Google are saying to Apple in a round-about way, that's enough, pipe down.

  20. Zippy the Pinhead

    Post your own message

    I originally posted this under another article regarding patents...

    I'm not against patents because honestly if I invent something other than software I want to be able to patent it or some large company would just swoop in and steal my product and I would never be able to compete against that.. and why should my idea make an already rich company even richer without me licensing or selling the technology to them.

    But to go further.

    Ask a developer.. do you WRITE code or do you INVENT code? You write it of course!

    In fact you can write code in many different ways and it can have the same results. However when a developer writes code he writes it for a specific OS designed to run on a specific type of computer and he then expects his patent to protect hm from all the others doing the same thing even if they are not writing in the same computer language or OS. This is why I object to software and process patents.. They pervert the patent process. Patents aren't the problem. The problem is they should never have been using patents for software in the first place! And don't even get me started on patents to protect a process!!!

    Take the toaster

    Patent 1 - simply because I typed this example 1st

    A electrical powered device that uses heated coils and pops up when a selected electrical resistance is reached then I have a modern home toaster

    Patent 2

    A steel bar with a wooden handle on one end and a thin steel cage on the other, I have made a toaster that would work excellent over a camp fire.

    The two devices are equally valid and do the same function, just in different ways And they are actually mutually exclusive since one requires the use of fire as a heating source and the other requires the use of electricity. However if this was a software or a process patent the person who made patent 1 could sue the owner of patent 2 for infringing on his invention.

    They are both valid devices doing the same thing but in different ways.

    Now if the patent office were to create a patent just for software and they made the rules that allowed the patent very specific then maybe I will agree to using patent protection for software..

    But I would insist on the following:

    What is the specific OS this software designed to run on including version number of the OS.

    Since code written under MacOS and Windows or Linux would probably be different don't expect a patent you created to work under Windows to also protect you under a different OS if you didn't code for it.

    Is the application web based or what, is the code portable, in which specific way?

    What was the software coded in, (an application compiled in C cannot be protected if someone else can have the same desired effect if they built their's in Java or visual basic or assembly or whatever. They may be doing the same thing but they are doing it in a different way and their code is different from yours.

    A copy of the code MUST be attached - Yeah I know software companies would hate this but the Patent Office could hold this back from the public to protect the person or company who created the code - this way the patent office could reject copied code. All comments would need to be removed from the submitted code and the patent office could just do a code comparison.

    The software must work as described and not be something oblivious that people would do naturally without the patent in the first place (I'm thinking the Amazon OneClick patent here which really isn't a software patent but a process patent but I think you get what I mean)

    I could go on, but the point I'm getting to is this is a fail on the Patent Office in the first place who without thought or consideration just made it easier on the lawyers and patent trolls to get rich and kill innovation.

    1. dssf

      I wish somebody would do this for Lotus SmartSuite...

      But, obviously, enough devs are too afraid to risk irking IBM and the so-called unfindable original patent holders who could suddenly pop up to reap a mint off of IBM and any forkers of the S/Suite look and feel.

      What programmers need to start doing to circumvent this bullshittery in patents is to devise code that lets the END USERS say to an app, "Be a chamelion and copy THIS for me", and the END user could then to a good extent have tech and code do THEIR bidding instead of what a marketing department and a legal team want.

  21. chr0m4t1c

    Maybe it's just me

    But would anyone else find it spectacularly funny if HTC bought WebOS from HP and then used these patents against Motorola and Samsung (and maybe Nokia) as well?



  22. Nanki Poo

    @chr0m4t1c and b166er

    the closest two posts I've seen to the way I think about it.

    Patent claims have gone on for years, mostly without our knowledge, and there are probably monies transferring between companies that would raise the eyebrows of even those here for their audacity.

    However, in the mobile market it's getting ridiculous, and some major firms are getting to the point of obvious anti-competitive patent practices, aimed at smaller corporates, and increasingly turning into into "you think you're bigger than me" playground battles..

    So, as b166er says, Google are now saying "that's enough, pipe down". How far do the big companies want to take this battle? Also, it 'proves' Google's dedication to the Android sector, they will pass the patents on.

    This one is going to be an interesting playout, and at the mo I'm on the side of the <no evil>, cos they have more to lose if they play it wrong, and they need their partners.


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