Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Schmidt Says Google Will Defend HTC in Fight with Apple

Google will support HTC in its patent battle against Apple, Eric Schmidt says. He is a former Apple director. Schmidt accused Apple of resorting to lawsuits instead of innovations and said "We will make sure" HTC doesn't lose. An analyst said Google needs to protect Android licensees, and the battle between HTC and Apple could be long.

Google's executive chairman is sticking his mouth into the middle of the Apple vs HTC battle. Eric Schmidt defended HTC against a company where he used to sit on the board of directors.

At Google's Mobile Conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, Schmidt pledged Google's support Relevant Products/Services for HTC in its patent battle against Apple. HTC is appealing a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that the company trespassed on two Apple patents with its Google Android-based smartphones. Apple had charged that HTC violated 10 patents.

Grace Lei, general counsel for HTC, said the company will "vigorously fight these two remaining patents through an appeal before the ITC commissioners who make the final decisions."

Schmidt's Mouthful

"We have seen an explosion of Android devices entering the market and, because of our successes, competitors are responding with lawsuits, as they cannot respond through innovations," Schmidt said. "I'm not too worried about this."

Although he didn't say exactly how Google would help, whether via attorneys or financial help or some other support, Schmidt did say, "We will make sure they don't lose, then."

Google has a lot at stake. The company just announced that it sees 550,000 Android activations a day, outpacing Apple's iOS, Microsoft's Windows Relevant Products/Services Phone 7, and the BlackBerry OS.

Schmidt said of a once-close ally, without naming names: "The big news in the past year has been the explosion of Google Android handsets, and this means our competitors are responding. Because they are not responding with innovation Relevant Products/Services, they're responding with lawsuits. We have not done anything wrong and these lawsuits are just inspired by our success."

Defending Licensees

Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis, said if Google believes that HTC is being sued over intellectual property that is actually core Android functionality, then it would be understandable for Google to ensure its licensees are protected.

"We are at a stage of the market where intellectual property is incredibly important and valuable, and everyone is suing everyone else," Greengart said. "There are some companies at which IP is an important part of the overall corporate value. If you don't properly monetize that intellectual property, your shareholders get understandably upset. The way you monetize that is to get people to license your patents. In cases where that doesn't work, you bring them to court."

Greengart said some IP suits are about licensing terms. In such cases, he said, it's about trying to level the playing field and taking full advantage of the innovations the company brought to market and getting full value for them.

"Patent suits tend to be a long process," Greengart said. "If you follow cases on a day-by-day blow by blow, you often end up assuming things are more dire than they actually are for any of parties involved."

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