Patent Law

Apple's Legal Strategy in HTC Suit Examined

A lawsuit filed by Apple on Tuesday against mobile handset maker HTC created an Internet sensation, prompting widespread speculation on what would happen if Apple prevails and wins an injunction against further production of Google Android phones, including the Nexus One.

“Given the enormity of HTC and the rapidly growing Android platform, the lawsuit could very well influence the way touch-screen phones are made in general,” Wired magazine’s Epicenter blog reported.

Apple is seeking a ban on U.S. imports, sales or use of some HTC phones and alleges that HTC infringed on some 20 of Apple’s patents involving the iPhone’s touch-screen user interface, hardware and software, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But an injunction isn’t likely, as courts are moving away from that avenue and more often considering what impact a penalty like that would have on the marketplace, according to the New York Times Bits blog.

“A ruling that would call on HTC to kill the whole phone does seem highly unlikely, especially given the prominence of the companies involved,” the blog notes.

IP lawyer Stephen Lieb, of Frommer Lawrence & Haug, told Bits that courts have recently moved away from these kinds of injunctions and now consider the effect a ban would have on the marketplace and on the public interest.

But even before the case, which was filed in federal court in Delaware and with the U.S. International Trade Commission, gets to that stage—if it doesn’t settle first—Lieb said to expect a countersuit from HTC or Google, which appears to be Apple’s primary target.

Harvard Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain told Bits that Apple is likely employing a strategy of targeting a less powerful company before taking on the deeper-pocket Google.

“It clearly involves some form of litigation strategy of picking off the weaker members of the herd first,” Mr Zittrain said. “They can always add Google to the suit later on.”

Related coverage:

New York Times: “Apple Sues Nexus One Maker HTC”

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