The Mobile Patent Proxy War Continues

by Matt Klassen on January 30, 2012

The Cold War-esque proxy patent battle between Google and Apple is heating up (or would that be cooling off?) with news that Google acquisition target Motorola Mobility is once again suing Apple for alleged infringement of six of its patents—which may in fact be Motorola’s entire patent portfolio.

The lawsuit, filed in Florida court, relates to the iPhone antennae, software, data filtering, and messaging and is simply the latest in a long line of legal salvos fired between Apple and the broader Android camp, with both sides winning and losing decisive battles mostly in European markets.

In fact, most see Apple’s legal wrangling with notables Samsung, HTC, and Motorola as a by-proxy attack against Google’s Android operating system, with the late Steve Jobs going as far as to say that he and his company were prepared to wage “thermonuclear war” against Google’s OS for market superiority. But does this OS Cold War have any real impact on the mobile market, or is it  all simply intimidation tactics at work?

Despite the fact that Motorola has won a temporary injunction against Apple in Germany and Samsung continues to mount up both wins and losses in its own legal dance with the Cupertino technology giant, I have yet to see this endless legal to-and-fro have any real impact on the mobile market. In fact, I have yet to hear of anyone anywhere not getting access to their OS of choice because of some legal decision.

But while I consider this whole legal soap opera to be pointless and rather boring, it certainly seems that Apple, Google, and the myriad of Android partners are all taking it quite seriously. In fact, many believe that Google’s pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility is driven primarily by a desire to bolster the defences of the Android ecosystem in general, giving Google its own proxy to wage war on Apple.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why the legal games are being played, as I clearly see the mobile market—as with any market I suppose—as one big chess board, with each company moving the pieces available in ways that block each one’s respective competitors, with legal action being one of those pieces, I’m just confused why companies continue to move this particular piece, since I haven’t’ seen any Android or Apple phone ever get blocked from a given market as a result of legislation.

But perhaps there is some method to Apple’s madness after all, as I have to wonder just how much legal trouble these smaller Android partners are willing to put up with before Google’s OS simply isn’t cost effective anymore—admittedly a strange thing to say about a free mobile operating system.

If Apple should decisively win any of its ongoing legal battles any subsequent decision regarding patent infringement would likely cost Android partners like Samsung, HTC, and Motorola dearly, either in heavy licensing fees paid to Apple or the loss of revenue associated with being unable to sell certain devices in certain markets. It is conceivable that such continued legal pestering is all some of these companies might need to start exploring their own OS options and, as I’ve said before, leave Android in the dust.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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