Apple vs HTC: Is Google about to wade in?

Apple is suing mobile phone manufacturers HTC, alleging that the company stole patented iPhone technology. Google is standing behind its Android operating system

We dearly love a spot of mega-corporation drama -- it's as close to giant robot fighting as we're likely to get in our sorry lifetimes. That's why we're super-excited to hear that search behemoth Google may well be wading into the legal quagmire to defend HTC from Apple's allegations that it pinched its ideas.

Apple is suing HTC, alleging that the Taiwanese mobile phone manufacturer has infringed more than 20 patents that covered technology used in the iPhone interface and underlying hardware and architecture.

Google, whose Android operating system resides on a host of HTC devices including the Nexus One, has stated, "We are not a party to this lawsuit. However, we stand behind our Android operating system and the partners who have helped us develop it."

Apple is already tied up suing Nokia over similar iPhone patent infringement, but now it's fighting a war on two fronts, having picked a fight with HTC. Steve Jobs has certainly not been shy when it comes to defending his company's honour, stating, "We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions or we can do something about it."

Miaow. Apparently the patents Apple believes have been trampled upon relate to the iPhone's touch functionality. These include pinch-to-zoom and swipe-to-scroll, as well as 'unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image', 'list scrolling and document translation, scaling and rotation on a touchscreen display'.

It seems rather unfair that many of these infringement claims have not been levelled at Google itself -- after all, the Android operating system borrows several elements from the iPhone's interface, not just HTC's bolted-on user interface.

Whether or not that's really a big deal is up for debate -- imitation and competition are to be expected in the technology sector, and patent disputes are extremely common. But if Google gets involved, will Apple have bitten off more than it can chew? Pick a side in the comments box.

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