In an interview before his death, Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said that he was willing to go into a “thermonuclear war” with Android. You’ll find it unsurprising that the Cupertino-based company has taken his words to heart, with Apple battling Android manufacturers in various courts around the world.
At the heart of this costly legal battle are the patents that Apple has obtained and owned based on its development of the iPhone, and on the other end are the Android manufacturers, some of which have very few patents to use as ammunition, and Google, the creator of the Android OS.
Google is in the process of buying Motorola (which has a massive patent portfolio), which recently won and then lost a judgement in Germany to ban Apple’s products. However, Google itself doesn’t have enough patents to force Apple into a cross-licensing deal. As such, the company may have issues helping Android manufacturers defend their cases against the Apple legal juggernaut.
It is, however, interesting to note that two Android manufacturers have so far avoided a lawsuit from the iPhone maker. LG seems to have escaped while its keen rival, Samsung, has been facing the brunt of Apple’s attacks. It could be that LG’s market share isn’t large enough to worry Apple, though this is pure speculation on my part. It could also be that Apple knows about LG’s possible store of patents which could be used against the Cupertino-based company, but this is highly unlikely, given Samsung’s current legal woes.
The company formerly known as Sony Ericsson seems to have also escaped the titan’s wrath. But while market share could be a factor, it seems more likely that Sony and its joint-venture partner, ST Ericsson, has significant of patents to defend with, unlike LG and Samsung.
Sony Mobile’s chief marketing officer, who said that the company was “well protected by patents, as a consequence of all of the work that Ericsson and Sony have done over many years”.
“IPR (Intellectual property rights) is about fair trade between companies, if you have something to trade with, then that trade usually happens on a very amicable basis,” he said.
So while Apple may have a “nuclear arsenal” to use against Android, it could be very careful on who it picks its fights with. After all, one of its key patents, the Slide to Unlock feature of the iPhone, has been the subject of a current legal battle. Sony has a similar feature in its smartphones but is not being targeted. Could Apple be wary of provoking a company with an equally large patent portfolio? Or could it be looking to secure early easy victories as precedents before moving up the list?
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