Your guide to all those damn smartphone lawsuits

Smartphone competition is fostering a real love-fest among Apple, Nokia, RIM, Google, Motorola and others

Having trouble keeping track of who is suing whom among smartphone and mobile technology players over the past few months? Here's a quick rundown:

Having trouble keeping track of who is suing whom among smartphone and mobile technology players over the past few months? Here's a quick rundown:Family of author Philip K. Dick vs. Google

Author Philip K. Dick's estate said in January it would sue Google for allegedly swiping the names "Android" and "Nexus One" from Dick's 1968 novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" -- which later morphed into the movie Blade Runner. "Google takes first and then deals with the fallout later," Dick's daughter Isa is quoted as saying in The Telegraph.

Google, which denies infringing on the Dick family's intellectual property introduced its Android-based Nexus One phone at CES in January.

Kodak vs. Apple and RIM

Kodak in January filed a lawsuit with the U.S. International Trade Commission against Apple and RIM for allegedly infringing on patents related to digital imaging technology.  Specifically, Kodak alleges that the Apple iPhone and certain BlackBerry smartphones are using a method for previewing camera phone images that has been patented by Kodak.

Motorola vs. Research in Motion

Patent litigation between Motorola and Research In Motion heated up in January, with Motorola filing a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission alleging that RIM engages in unfair trade practices by importing and selling products that infringe five Motorola patents. The patents cover technologies related to Wi-Fi access, application management, user interface and power management, Motorola said.

Motorola is asking the ITC to investigate RIM and bar the company from importing, marketing and selling products in the U.S. that use the technologies. The companies have been engaged in patent infringement suits dating back to early 2008. RIM declined to comment on Motorola's filing with the ITC.

Nokia vs. Apple/Apple vs. Nokia

Nokia filed suit against Apple in federal court in October  alleging that the iPhone infringes on 10 of Nokia's patents related to technologies such as GSM, UMTS and wireless LANs

Apple fired back in December, accusing Nokia of allegedly infringing on 13 of its patents and pointedly told Nokia that "other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours." Apple also accused Nokia of antitrust violations and deceptive practices in terms of revealing its intellectual property rights.  Apple is also seeking a ban on U.S. imports of Nokia gear.

Now the U.S. International Trade Commission is investigating each company's claims against the other. 

A U.S. judge has put the earlier suits on hold while the ITC does its work. 

Apple vs. HTC

Apple filed a patent infringement lawsuit at the start of March against HTC, claiming that the Taiwanese company is infringing 20 Apple patents are related to the iPhone user interface and the smartphone's underlying architecture and hardware. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Delaware and with the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The suit is seen by many as more a case of Apple vs. Google and even Microsoft than Apple vs. HTC.  HTC phones include those that use Google's Android mobile OS and Windows Mobile OS. HTC has defended itself, saying it uses its own technology, not Apple's. 

Network World sister organizations IDG News Service and PC World contributed to this article

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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