HTC paid for the patents it acquired from Google and why they’re hypocrites

Wed, Sep 14, 2011

Legal, News

This past week, HTC filed a lawsuit against Apple for patent infringement using a number of patents HTC acquired from Google, some of which, not surprisingly, were previously assigned to Motorola.

Apple thus far has seen moderate success in its own legal actions against HTC, with an ITC judge ruling recently that HTC’s Android-based smartphones infringe upon two of Apple’s patents. Further, the ITC in mid-August also agreed to investigate another one of Apple’s ITC complaints against HTC.

So in an attempt to flex some legal muscle of its own, HTC is taking Apple to task over 9 patents, 4 of which originate from Motorola, and the others coming from Openwave Systems and Palm. HTC’s lawsuit alleges that Apple’s entire product line infringes upon these patents, from the iPhone to the Mac to iTunes and even Apple’s upcoming iCloud service.

Now it’s certainly interesting that the patents in question were all acquired from Google. Remember, the company has been rallying against the patent system as of late and has even indicated that it has no intention of using its growing patent portfolio offensively.

So much for that, I suppose.

Now when HTC’s lawsuit first hit the wires, it was widely assumed that Google simply gave them to HTC to help fend of Apple’s Android attack. But HTC subsequently cleared the air and said that it paid for all of the patents Google recently assigned them.

Okay, fair enough, but how much did HTC put down?

That’s the million dollar question. Maybe HTC paid what the patents are objectively worth in an open market or maybe they made some sort of token payment to Google in exchange for the patents. So HTC’s claims of paying for the patents might make a great soundbite, one has to assume that they were picked up at a heavy discount.

As we’ve previously pointed out, HTC General Counsel Grace Lei had the gall to exclaim, “HTC will continue to protect its patented inventions against infringement from Apple until such infringement stops.”


Just what patented inventions is Lei referring to? Oh right, the ones actually created by other companies.

Nailing the difference between Apple and HTC’s point of reference, Philip Elmer-DeWitt writes:

The difference is that Apple actually invented the technology it accused HTC — and by proxy, Google — of “stealing” (to use Steve Jobs’ verb). One of the patents Apple cited in its 2010 suit — Patent No. No. 7479949 — is a 358-page document signed by Jobs himself that covers everything from the way a finger touches the screen of a smartphone to the heuristics that turn those touches into commands.

HTC and Google, by contrast, are accusing Apple (whose smartphone designs they have plainly copied) of violating patents they bought fourth or fifth hand.


Back in early August, Google’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond wrote a highly circulated blogpost detailing the underhanded way Google’s competitors were using the patent system to attack Android.

“Patents were meant to encourage innovation,” Drummond, wrote, “but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it.”

Nothing like selling second-hand patents to fight back against companies that, oh I don’t know, actually file their own original patents and don’t just buy em’ by the bundle.

So Google sure does talk a big patent game, but it’s involved in the same low-down dirty game of patent litigation that they lambast everyone else for playing.


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