Forget about Apple’s November plea to the European Telecommunications Standard asking for regulations for “patent holders playing dirty.” Apple has turned face, and in its evident hypocrisy, returned fire on Samsung, using four newly acquired patents in its arsenal, and filed a patent suit to ban the sales of Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the U.S.
The preliminary injunction, filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, leverages the following four patents:
- U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647: “System and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data.” This patent was coined the “data tapping” patent by intellectual property analyst, Florian Mueller. At risk from this patent is any algorithm that scrapes unstructured data, including emails and calendars. This has once before been successful in convincing the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban the import of HTC Android phones starting April 19, 2012.
- U.S. Patent No. 8,086,604: “Universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system.” This newly minted patent is Apple’s response to protect its mobile search engine, Siri, and a threat to Google’s own mobile search engine.
- U.S. Patent No. 8,046,721: “Unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image.” The patent for the swiping motion to unlock a phone, once unique to Apple, was granted only recently to the Cupertino, California, company.
- U.S. Patent No. 8,074,172: “Method, system, and graphical user interface for providing word recommendations.” Some of you may recognize this as the infamous auto-correct that spawned entire blogs around the algorithm’s misappropriation of letters.
Instigated by Apple’s suit against Samsung for selling mimicry mobile products of the iPhone and iPad lines, the lawsuit is the latest development in the blow-by-blow exchanged in the patent war. Prior to Apple’s suit, Samsung had attempted to ban iPhone 4S sales in Japan, Italy, France and Australia, to name a few.
What doesn’t meet the eye in this commencing battle is Apple’s true target: Google’s latest Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. With every new Android OS launch, Google has partnered with a vendor. With the release of Ice Cream Sandwich in 2011, Samsung was to be the, “official lead device that comes with a time-to-market advantage for the vendor in exchange of the device maker’s compliance with Google’s rules,” Mueller writes. Under Google’s terms, Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus (all lead devices are labeled with “Nexus”) was to come installed with only Android software, bare of the OEM bloatware that is often included by non-lead device manufacturers.
With this in mind, “Google has sometimes refrained from implementing certain features in ‘stock Android’ just to steer clear of infringement, knowing that some of those functionalities would be implemented by OEMs anyway,” Mueller reveals. But this time, Apple has walked into battle, armed with hard-hitting patents that would implicate the core functionalities of non-iOS operating systems that are found in all mobile devices today.
Boasting three new all-encompassing patents and one already effective patent in tote, Apple appears to be sitting pretty with the upper hand. It’s likely only a matter of months before the verdict is read. Until then, we should be in for quite the show.
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