Google Backs Smartphone Maker HTC in Apple Lawsuit

By Ram Srinivasan
Ram Srinivasan
Ram Srinivasan
March 3, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

The Google Nexus One(L) smartphone with provider service from T-Mobile, and the Apple iPhone(R), with provider service from AT&T, sit side-by-side. Apple has filed a lawsuit against smartphone maker HTC for alleged patent infringement. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
The Google Nexus One(L) smartphone with provider service from T-Mobile, and the Apple iPhone(R), with provider service from AT&T, sit side-by-side. Apple has filed a lawsuit against smartphone maker HTC for alleged patent infringement. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK—Shortly after Apple Inc. hit smartphone maker HTC with a lawsuit—over Apple smartphone patents—Internet giant Google Inc. rallied behind the small Taiwanese vendor.

In a lawsuit Apple filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and with the U.S. District Court in Delaware, the computer manufacturer accused HTC of infringing on over 20 of its hardware and software patents related to the Apple iPhone. The lawsuit cites Nexus One, a smartphone manufactured by HTC for Google, which runs Google's Android mobile operating system.

Many analysts see the lawsuit as a veiled attack at Google, whose Android operating system is predicted by some analysts to overtake the iPhone in market share by as early as 2011. HTC and several other smartphone manufacturers make phones that run Google's Android operating system. Apple’s proprietary platform is only used in the iPhone.

In response, Google backed the small smartphone manufacturer. A Google spokeswoman said in a press release that "We are not a party to this lawsuit. However, we stand behind our Android operating system and the partners who have helped us to develop it."

In 2009, Apple captured 14 percent of the global smartphone market, and was the fastest growing smartphone vendor in the world. Smartphones based on the Android platform trailed in comparison, with only around 4 percent of the market, but were the second-largest growing platform.

HTC denied the allegations in a published statement, saying that "HTC is not only an innovator in mobile technology but also an owner of many patents." However, the company's shares dipped slightly on the Taiwan stock exchange.

The Apple lawsuit represents an escalation in the patent battle in the smartphone industry, which is a rapidly growing and coveted industry for mobile phone makers. In January, Eastman-Kodak, a maker of digital cameras and other digital equipment, filed a complaint with the ITC alleging that the iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd.(RIM)’s BlackBerry devices infringed on some digital photography patents owned by Kodak.

In October 2009, Nokia filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple, saying that iPhone infringed on ten of Nokia's patents. Apple countersued Nokia in December 2009, alleging that Nokia infringed on 13 of Apple's patents. In response, on Dec. 29, 2009, Nokia filed a complaint with the ITC alleging that Apple infringed on its patents in "virtually all" Apple iPhones, portable music players, and computers.

Nokia is currently the world's largest maker of smartphones, though it lags behind RIM and Apple in the U.S. market.