Apple and Google are gathering legal forces to defend their intellectual property, as both tech giants prepare for increasingly inevitable patent clashes.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google is seeking to fill a newly created position for vice president of patents, besides hiring a manager of patent acquisitions. Its Cupertino, Calif.-based rival is also bolstering its legal team, recently listing two patent litigation counsel positions.
In particular, Apple recently replaced its top lawyer Richard Lutton Jr. with B.J. Watrous as Apple’s chief patent counsel, while Google hired former FTC deputy director Suzanne Michel to battle Oracle in court.
The hiring sprees point to both tech heavyweights’ difficulties in combating multiple patent lawsuits, an industry-wide situation that has affected Apple and Google especially.
For Apple’s part, it needs to beef up its legal team to continue its onslaught against Android phone manufacturers like Samsung, HTC and Motorola. Apple has sued and filed injunctions with the International Trade Commission (ITC) against all three in various countries.
In Samsung’s case, Apple recently succeeded in banning its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Europe and also got the company to cease Galaxy tablet sales in Australia, pending a patent case.
HTC faces similar difficulties, as Apple filed a European lawsuit against the Taiwanese handset maker alleging intellectual copyright infringement. HTC may also see a U.S. ban on several products if the ITC rules against it.
Apple is mounting an offensive against Android manufacturers in what some see as a proxy war on Google. Google appears to see it this way too, as the company recently defended HTC against what it suggested was Apple’s harassment.
But Google has a new ace up its sleeve that may trump Apple’s attempt to force Android manufacturers out of the mobile game. Google today announced it will purchase Motorola, a huge step that could both boost its ability to market new phones and bolster its patent holdings.
The latter outcome especially should help Google, a relatively patent-poor company, fend off Apple’s legal blows. Google is scrambling to pick up as many patents as it can, for example, by considering a bid against Apple for InterDigital and Kodak’s combined 2,400 mobile phone and digital camera patents.
Apple, along with a consortium of other Google rivals, thwarted it in the Nortel auction, but Google’s readiness to enter these auctions signals it does not intend to give up.
If both companies continue to hire lawyers and snap up patents to defend their respective mobile OS’s, Google and Apple may be headed into a full-on patent war. Whatever happens, the tech giants’ fight will certainly change the face of the mobile industry.