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Apple Sues Linux Phones Using Software Patents

Android 2.0



Summary: Apple decides to take on Linux without prior provocation and its apologists have a chance to understand why Apple is not a friend

SEVERAL WEEKS ago we warned that Apple is an enemy of Free software because of its stance on software patents and its actions against Linux. Well, finally we can show that Apple is actually suing Linux, not just threatening to sue. Android is targeted by this new lawsuit which names 20 patents, some of them software patents.



Apple is using its strong patent portfolio to fight iPhone competitors in court. Its latest target is HTC. Apple has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the cell phone manufacturer. The suit involves “20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.”

Steve Jobs is quoted in a press release saying: “We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” The lawsuit itself is not available yet online. We’ve asked Apple for a copy.


Apple has already threatened to sue Palm, which is using Linux. This is why Free software supporters should stop feeding Apple, which is a supporter of software patents and a funding source of the world's biggest patent troll.

It's not just a lawsuit from Apple by the way (which targets a Chinese company, where software patents are a grey area if not altogether invalid). For Apple, this is an embargo attempt because it runs to the ITC:

Apple has enlisted the patent court and the U.S. International Trade Commission in an effort to kneecap Google. The company this morning filed a lawsuit against HTC — which makes Google’s Nexus One, among other Android handsets — claiming the Taiwanese manufacturer has infringed on 20 of its patents “related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.” But the move may have more to do with Android’s rapid growth than actual patent sins.


Here is the Slashdot discussion. Shame on Apple. In the case of Nokia (covered in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]), Apple only counter-sued, but in this case Apple is attacking unnecessarily and proactively, using software patents.

"At least apple is being more truthful than MS," writes our reader Oiaohm (this discussion started in IRC around here). He refers to naming of patents. "Once they are named," he argues, "other methods can be developed to avoid them."

If Apple wants to sue someone, then it ought to be Microsoft (for its increasingly-neglected Windows Mobile), which openly admits copying Apple in many areas. But Microsoft and Apple are patent buddies now (cross-licensing), so that won't happen. Here is more proof (from a few days ago) that Microsoft is copying Apple's iPhone:

But to make the necessary leap required to compete with Apple’s iPhone, Microsoft had to start from scratch. In a New York Times story detailing Microsoft’s overhaul of its mobile division, Terry Myerson, the VP in charge of Windows Phone engineering said: “To be entirely candid, the iPhone opened our eyes as to some things that needed to be done that were not in our plan…Some execution had really gone astray.


In other mobile news about HTC, "Microsoft shafts HTC phone users," says The Inquirer.

STUMBLING PHONE OS VENDOR Microsoft has decided that users of Windows Mobile 6.X devices, including HTC's just-launched HD2, will not be allowed to upgrade to its Windows 7 Phone OS.


Anyway, the above lawsuit from Apple ought to serve as a reminder to Apple apologists who support Free software. That includes Apple fans like Canonical's (Ubuntu's) COO, Matt Asay, who is still somewhat hostile or negative on open source software. To give examples from this week (so far), here is a post where he advocated "open-source", which is not even Open Source software.

Open-source software has hastened the evolution of Web applications as it drives out the inefficiencies and costs of proprietary software to enable companies like Google and Twitter to scale. But it's not just proprietary software that is feeling the squeeze:

Companies like Facebook are now swapping out old-guard open-source projects like MySQL for new-school open source.


Here is another new one where Asay argues that "Open Source" is not useful to the "little guy" (like Canonical).

The downside to the small-company-big-community approach is that it can be hard to sell value around a community that is used to getting everything free of charge.


He's really just de-legitimising himself (no matter the PR from Slashdot). A few days ago he still advocated Apple and that's not good at all. It's a company that's suing Linux using software patents. He ought to wake up and smell the coffee. Apple promoted OOXML, DRM, and software patents, so it's not just this lawsuit (and threats of other lawsuits). Steve Jobs is quoted as saying: "Competitors should create their own original technology." If only he told people how many ideas Apple had taken from other companies since its inception. What a nerve and what a huge case of hypocrisy. Ideas are everywhere; the only mistake is limiting them.

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