HTC May End Up Bringing Knife to Apple Gun Fight
When Apple first filed its lawsuit against HTC, I speculated that one reason Cupertino might have chosen the company as a target–beyond the sheer number of Android and Windows Mobile devices it manufactures–is that as a contract manufacturer, HTC may lack the strong patent portfolio needed to defend itself. It seems this is indeed the case.
A Deutsche Bank analysis of yearly patent filings by Apple (AAPL), HTC and Google (GOOG) reveals that Apple is by far the leader and HTC the laggard. Over the past few years, Apple has amassed some 3,000 patents, HTC just 58.
“HTC has had comparatively few patent filings leading up to the introduction of the original iPhone in June 2007,” Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore explained in a note to clients this past weekend. “Specifically, HTC filed zero patents with the US Patent office between 2004 and 2007 while Apple filed 507 and Google filed 67 over the same period.”
Now, Deutsche Bank’s analysis doesn’t categorize any of these patents, so it’s impossible to say which apply to Apple’s suit against HTC. But the paucity of patents held by the latter certainly suggests it could find itself at a severe disadvantage in this battle.
UPDATE: Here’s a bit of additional perspective on this from Engadget’s resident patent expert Nilay Patel:
Hey, just caught your piece on HTC’s patent portfolio. It’s interesting, and I agree with your reasoning on why Apple chose HTC over, say, Motorola, which has 1000s of patents, but remember that Apple’s entire portfolio doesn’t really matter here–it only picked 20 to litigate, and it only has to win one claim. Similarly, HTC only has to find one of its 58 patents that the iPhone infringes, which isn’t necessarily impossible since HTC’s portfolio is probably entirely mobile-oriented. I’m sure HTC will countersue here–it’s basically standard practice in this type of suit. I’d also expect Google to be named sooner rather than later–there’s no way HTC’s contract with Google doesn’t have a rock-solid indemnification clause.