Sunday, September 4, 2011

Apple: Android's framework inspired by creator's time at Apple

Apple is continuing to fight HTC over Android and have pulled an ace out of their sleeve - Andy Rubin, a.k.a. the man behind Android, worked at Apple when the company was working on a key patent. A patent that Android might be infringing on.

The patent in question was filed in the distant 1994 (no iPod, iPhone, iOS or anything at the time) but seems directly related to processing data in real time. Andy Rubin was a low-level engineer working on the patent for Apple at the time.

Android may be infringing on this patent and working around it would require changes that go very deep - maybe as deep as the kernel itself.

For now, Apple is only bringing this up to point out that HTC weren’t completely truthful in their statements (they said Rubin's career started in General Magic). Here's the quote from Apple's statement:

Android and Mr. Rubin's relevant background does not start, as HTC would like the Commission to believe, with his work at General Magic or Danger in the mid-1990s. In reality, as the evidence revealed at the hearing, Mr. Rubin began his career at Apple in the early 1990s and worked as a low-level engineer specifically reporting to the inventors of the '263 [realtime API] patent at the exact time their invention was being conceived and developed. [...] It is thus no wonder that the infringing Android platform used the claimed subsystem approach of the '263 patent that allows for flexibility of design and enables the platform to be "highly customizable and expandable" as HTC touts. [...] While Mr. Rubin's inspiration for the Android framework may not be directly relevant to the pending petitions for review, that HTC felt compelled to distort this history is illustrative of the liberties it takes in attacking the ALJ's [initial determination] and the substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's findings.

Those are official claims by Apple in front of the ITC, so it's not just political posturing.

Since Rubin was never an HTC employee this isn't a huge deal (but is still important). Now, if Apple filed a suit against a company that does employ Rubin - like, say, Google itself when the Motorola acquisition goes through, things get much more serious.

Then Apple would be able to claim that Android is willfully infringing on its patents, at least since the acquisition.

The judge presiding over the Oracle case (owners of Java) already suspects Rubin of infringing on the Java patents (which is free if you want to use the standard stuff, but you need a license if you want a modified version like the one Android uses), saying "Google may have simply been brazen, preferring to roll the dice on possible litigation rather than to pay a fair price".

How these various lawsuits will go is hard to predict, but one thing is for sure - Android's success has earned it many enemies.

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