Though Android and the parent company Google cannot be termed little guys, they are being bullied by the big guys, for being successful. The Android team, Google and Android OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) are wading through rough waters with as many as 48 Android related lawsuits under the scrutiny of US laws.
Six of Google's rivals, including Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion, tied up recently to prevent Google from buying a critical trove of telephony patents, at Nortel's wireless technology patents auction, with judges in the United States and Canada approving the $4.5 billion transaction.
The American Antitrust Institute (AAI) has asked the US Department of Justice to intervene and to probe whether the tech-giants' tie-up against Google is lawful. Apparently AAI believes the coalition is illegal and points out that the consortium, which called itself Rockstar Bidco, bid five times as much as Google's opening bid for the wireless technology patents.
Nortel, which went bankrupt recently, has been in phone manufacturing business for decades, which means they owned patents that cover some of the most basic technology features in telephony. These patents would prove noxious to rivals, as most mobile device makers invariably use some of these basic technologies.
Since the rivals bid five times as much as Google's opening bid of $ 900 million, at the high stake auction, it seems the companies had a complete plan of action in place even before acquiring the patents, to use them as a weapon for achieving what they haven't been able to achieve through a fair market competition.
While a section is crying foul about the dysfunction of US patent system, tech giants spend a significant amount of their resources to fight in courts.
Top 5 major patent infringement lawsuits against Android and Android OEMs
Oracle vs. Google:
Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google in August 2010 for patent and copyright infringement over Google's use of Java in its open-source Android OS. Google is being accused of infringing seven Java patents and other copyrights. Google might have to pay $3 billion or more for damages Oracle incurred, if the latter wins the case. Oracle could also extract a licensing fee of $15 to $20 per gadget from Android OEMs.
Apple vs. Samsung:
Apple is known for suing as well as getting sued. Apple- Samsung patent dispute has turned bitter with suing and counter suing aplenty after Apple chose to sue Samsung first for imitating the look and feel of iPhone and iPad. Apple filed motion for Preliminary Injunction in US District Court in San Jose, last week, to halt the sale of four Samsung devices, Infuse 4G, Galaxy S 4G, Droid Charge, and Galaxy Tab 10.1. Granting Apple's motion is speculated to have disastrous effect on the sales of Samsung's flagship Android-based products which will force Samsung to take the four mobile devices out of US market.
Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple's technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products, the Apple lawsuit said. There are a total of 10 claims being made against Samsung by Apple.
Microsoft vs. Motorola:
Microsoft sued Motorola in October 2010, alleging that the Motorola Droid line and other Android smartphones infringed nine of Microsoft's patents. Apparently Microsoft has problems with Motorola devices' functionalities including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power.
Motorola filed a countersuit a month later, alleging infringement of 16 patents by Microsoft's PC and Server software, Windows mobile software and Xbox products.
Apple vs. HTC:
Days after filing another suit against Samsung, Apple took aim at smaller rival HTC on Monday, filling a claim with the International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the sales of the competing smartphones and tablets. Apple said that HTC was infringing on groundbreaking technologies that Apple developed for its iPod, iPhone and iPad products. The move comes more than a year after Apple filed suit against HTC, alleging 20 instances of patent infringement, all dealing with various elements of the iPhone. We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it, Steve Jobs said in March 2010, when Apple filed the initial lawsuit.
Apple vs. Motorola:
Apple filed two suits, in November 2010, alleging Motorola handsets such as the Droid, Droid X and Droid 2 violate six patents dealing with ways users access the handsets. Apple claimed there is an infringement on patents for multi-touch and other touch-screen-related technologies.
Are these lawsuits aggressive?
Sheer amount of litigation is enough to smother a rival, who will be forced to spend resources to fight it out in the court till the end. While the industry watchers debate on who is right and who is not, at least some of these lawsuits restrict market competitiveness by including clauses which are downright silly. Blame it on the policymakers or outdated patent laws or the highly competitive markets, corporations would continue legal battles as it always did.