Apple suing HTC for patent infringement seemingly came out of nowhere, but a new investor note from analyst Yair Reiner of Oppenheimer Research suggests that Apple has been in talks with a number of handset manufacturers over the past few months regarding their growing displeasure with what they consider to be the theft of their intellectual property.
“Starting in January, Apple launched a series of C-Level discussions with tier-1 handset makers to underscore its growing displeasure at seeing its iPhone-related IP [intellectual property] infringed,” Reiner writes, “The lawsuit filed against HTC thus appears to be Apple’s way of putting a public, lawyered-up exclamation point on a series of blunt conversations that have been occurring behind closed doors.”
Apple’s lawsuit against HTC is largely viewed as a proxy battle against Android, and early indications are that the lawsuit is already having a noticeable effect. Hardware and software developers are reportedly slowing down the design process to better grasp any potential patent issues that might arise down the line. More importantly, the potentially grave implications of an Apple legal victory has made some developers wary of putting all their eggs into Android, and some have been eyeing Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone Seven Series more closely.
The HTC suit, which is recognized as a proxy battle against Google, is causing OEMs to re-examine the strategy of relying overmuch on Android, lest it prove vulnerable in terms of core IP. This concern comes atop pre-existing misgivings about Google’s end-game in wireless. (to commoditize the OEMs? To arrogate all value-added services?)
Apple’s legal maneuvering appears to have temporarily retarded its rivals’ hot pursuit of the iPhone. But it also brings Apple a step closer to a head-on legal confrontation with an array of gargantuan adversaries. Now that it has made its point, Apple may want to go back to saber rattling.
Apple isn’t the type of company prone to legal posturing just to ruffle a few feathers. You have to imagine that Apple is going to exercise its legal rights to the fullest extent possible, and with HTC not having much of a patent portfolio to speak of, the current landscape of the smartphone market might not be recognizable at this time next year.