Patent infringement lawsuits between Silicon Valley companies are as common as muck these days, but a suit just filed by HTC takes a new tack. On September 1, Google transferred nine patents acquired from Motorola, Palm and OpenWave to HTC, who uses Google's Android software for their mobile phones. HTC then turned around and sued Apple for copyright infringement on all nine patents. Patent litigation expert Florian Mueller posed a couple of hypothesis why Google is sticking up for HTC so directly:
Google knows that HTC is under tremendous legal pressure from Apple and clearly on the losing track. HTC is the first Android device maker sued by Apple, so that dispute is at the most advanced stage, and since HTC's own patent portfolio is weak, it has so far lacked the leverage to force Apple into a cross-license agreement. The possibility of HTC being defeated must have scared Google.
Another motivation for Google is probably to demonstrate some support to third-party Android device…
What happens now? Mueller thinks that the new tactic will prompt Apple to sue Google directly. And according to Zach Carter at The Huffington Post, we shouldn't expect the federal government to step in anytime soon with patent law reforms that might quell the madness. They seem too busy collecting campaign donations from the relevant special interest groups jockeying over the details. Chairman of the Economic Advisors Austan Goodsbee did make this cute YouTube video explaining how patent law is so screwed up in the United States. We'll call it a good start towards actually fixing the system's shortcomings.