As the smartphone patent wars heat up, Apple has gone for the throat and filed a preliminary injunction against Samsung to ban sales of the Galaxy Nexus for allegedly infringing several key patents. Surprisingly, it’s not the hardware that Apple wants to ban but Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which they believe has stolen several ideas from their own iOS.
The patents in question cover simple actions such as clicking on a phone number to make a call, and sliding a finger across the screen to unlock it. Has Apple gone too far with the latest claims, and isn’t it about time the big tech companies got their heads knocked together and started to play fair?
If Apple’s injunction is successful, the imminent Ice Cream Sandwich updates for Android devices might suddenly be blocked from release, but it seems unlikely that such basic patents will allow a ban to be enforced. The patents involve “data detectors” which automatically detect emails and phone numbers in web pages and documents and let you click to make a call or create a mail. The slide to unlock feature is also covered, and it’s widely implemented on many Android devices. Finally, the last patent covers predictive text that proffers suggestion when typing on an onscreen keyboard.
Apple Involved in Smartphone Patent Wars
All these claims come amid a barrage of smartphone patent infringement cases by companies such as Apple, Motorola, Google and Samsung. In January, Motorola obtained a ban by the German courts forcing Apple to withdraw the iPad and iPhone from sale for infringing an essential patent, but Apple countered that Motorola has refused to license the technology on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (known as FRAND), and had demanded an unreasonable 2.25% of sales revenue. A few hours later Apple managed to overturn the ban and have since sued Motorola because they claim they’ve already licensed those patents from Qualcomm and so don’t have to pay Motorola again.
Apple Acquires 6,000 Patents. Google & Motorola Deal Approved by DOJ
Late last year, Apple also successfully blocked the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 from sale in Germany, but Samsung since made a redesign and it went back on sale. In July last year, a consortium known as Rockstar Bidco (which included Apple, Ericsson, RIM and Sony) bid $4.5 billion for over 6,000 patents from bankrupt Canadian network firm Nortel, a move which led Google to counteract and buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, mainly to acquire their 17,000 strong patent arsenal to shield Android from legal attacks.
Both deals were approved today by the Department of Justice in the US. The Motorola acquisition wasn’t all hunky dory however, as the DOJ issued some stern words of warning to Google regarding continued licensing of standards-essential patents on a FRAND basis – something they have not yet committed to, unlike Apple and Microsoft for example. Those two companies have come to amicable arrangements for reciprocal license deals and have said they’ll ensure FRAND conditions for essential industry patents (i.e. patents which are considered fundamentally important to the industry as a whole).
Apple’s Steve Jobs Vowed to Destroy Android
The latest move by Apple is an attempt to keep up the pressure on Android, a product that Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs vowed to destroy as he felt many of its features had been blatantly stolen from iOS. According to the authorised biography of Jobs published last year, he said “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this”, and “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong”.
The patent battles and legal disputes look set to continue indefinitely, with many more twists and turns to come. Your move, Google…