Let me preface that I’m a huge fan of John Gruber, and a t-shirt-wearing member of Daringfireball.net, because I’m going to point out that in regards to his Apple-HTC Patent review he’s missed a significant point.
If you haven’t read that fireball, go do so now. I’ll wait.
Back? Good. Now, after reading that, and perhaps perusing the links within, you should have a good grasp of where John is thinking the problem lies — with the U.S. Patent Office, and their on-going foolishness where people and companies are able to patent ideas that science fiction writers have come up with, which is truly despicable, and yes, he’s right, it’s a problem, but it’s not at the heart of this particular debate.
At the heart of this particular problem is Nokia.
You see, Nokia sued Apple, claiming patent infringement, and Apple had to counter-sue to even the playing field. That’s what Apple has done with its patents, for the most part, until this week. And look at the bit about that:
Nokia’s just hit Apple with a patent infringement lawsuit, claiming that “all iPhones models shipped” infringe on ten of Espoo’s patents relating to GSM, UMTS, and WiFi. According to Nokia’s press release, the patents in question have been licensed by some 40 other companies, “including virtually all the leading mobile device vendors,” and Apple’s refused to agree to “appropriate” license terms. source: Engadget
Notice that “appropriate” bit in there? That’s where this gets interesting. Presumably Nokia has licensed the patents to HTC. For how much? Apple has stated that Nokia wanted a cross-licensing agreement on technology that would have given away the House of Jobs. They aren’t going to do that, and since Nokia took this battle to the courts, Apple is now forced to do the same.
In fact, the big thing that Apple will want to do is get a cross-licensing agreement with a major Android-based handset maker that is along the lines of the terms that same Android-based handset maker had with Nokia. There is no bigger Android-based handset maker than the one company that Google itself has chosen to work with, and Apple can’t go after Google, yet. Why? Google doesn’t have a cross-license agreement with Nokia for squat. That’s the only thing that HTC has that Google lacks, and it’s the heart of the issue with Nokia.