Apple has lawyered up and is out for blood -- or at least, blood money. Its patent suit against Taiwanese handset maker HTC is further proof that the cold war between Cupertino and Mountain View is quickly escalating into a shooting match with live ammo.
Apple could easily have chosen to sue Palm, whose WebOS functionality closely mimics the iPhone's. But it's not worried about Palm -- it's worried about Google. And HTC makes most of the cool Android phones, from the G1 to the Nexus One.
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(Several HTC Windows Mobile phones are also implicated in the suit, but really, who cares? That's like Mercedes suing over the Yugo.)
Among the 20 claims submitted to the Federal Court and the International Trade Commission are patents for the seemingly straightforward "Object Oriented Graphic System," the widely used "Unlocking a Device By Performing Gestures on an Unlock Image" and the brain-twisting "Method for providing automatic and dynamic translation of object oriented programming language-based message passing into operation system message passing using proxy objects." Whew.
Interestingly, two of those (Nos. 1 and 3) predate the iPhone by more than a decade. Apple's really reaching deep into its patent toy chest here.
I'm not a trademark attorney (thank god), and I truly believe people who invent groundbreaking technologies should reap the rewards -- but not at the expense of stifling innovation elsewhere. Even if you created the first device that lets you make things happen when you smear your finger across a touch screen doesn't mean that you should be able to prevent other folks from making a better way to smear. That is the beauty of open source, which Google embraced with Android.