Apple has filed yet another patent complaint against a smartphone maker, requesting that the International Trade Commission (ITC) ban certain phones from sale. The smartphones in question are manufactured by HTC, which is an original device manufacturer (ODM) for several carriers, as well as being an increasingly important brand in its own right.
If you're feeling a curious wave of déjà vu at this point, don't worry. Not only has Apple been complaining about several other smartphone manufacturers recently, but this is actually its second complaint against HTC. What's going on here?
It seems that the initial response from the ITC is that HTC isn't infringing Apple's patents -- at least, not the ones about which it first complained. So Apple is essentially adding a few more complaints for good measure, presumably hoping that some mud will stick, if it throws enough.
There's another angle here. As Florian Mueller points out, HTC is acquiring S3 Graphics Co., which has itself been fighting Apple over patents:
HTC...just agreed to acquire S3 Graphics Co. ... One very interesting aspect of that purchase -- in some observers' opinion, the primary...reason for the deal -- is that just a week and half ago...the [Administrative Law Judge] leading the ITC investigation of S3's complaint against Apple issued a notice of a final initial determination, according to which Apple was deemed to infringe two valid S3 patents.
Here we see played out the classic game of dueling patent portfolios. Where two warring companies stare across the table and measure the relative weight of the other's patent filings.
This is, of course, a game that venerable old companies such as IBM have played for years, and is one of the many traits that Microsoft learned at IBM's knee. Even to the ironic extent that Microsoft is thought to make more revenue from Android than it does from Windows Phone 7.
Richi Jennings is an independent analyst, specializing in blogging, email, spam, security, and other technology topics. His writing has won American Society of Business Publication Editors and Jesse H. Neal awards. You can encircle him at +richi, follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be his friend at Facebook.com/richij or just use boring old email: firstname.lastname@example.org.