Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt vowed to support Taiwanese device manufacturer HTC in the latter’s legal battle with Apple over alleged violations of Apple-owned patents. Schmidt addressed participants at the Google Mobile Revolution conference held in Tokyo this week.

Schmidt, who formerly sat on Apple’s board until 2009, was quoted as vowing continued support for HTC. “We will make sure they don’t lose, then,” he said. The former Google CEO also expressed confidence that Google will be able to persuade the ITC to overturn the ruling made last week by a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) administrative law judge.

ITC Judge Finds HTC in Violation of Apple Patents

ITC Administrative Law Judge Carl Charneski determined last week that HTC does violate two of the ten patents that Apple alleged in March last year to have been infringed upon by HTC’s various Android devices.

Apple hurled two infringement complaints at HTC through the ITC. The first complaint was filed in March last year and involved 10 Apple patents. Apple’s second ITC complaint against HTC was filed early this month and involved 5 patents.

The “initial determination” made last week by Charneski will still be subject to review by the six-member Commission. If the Commission’s review upholds Charneski’s “initial determination,” the ITC may impose a U.S. ban on the infringing HTC devices.

Competitors Profiting from Lawsuits Rather than Innovation

Schmidt points to Android’s success as the magnet that attracted all this “legal fun.” Taking a similar stand as HTC’s, he criticized Apple for the latter’s obsession with lawsuits rather than innovation. “We have seen an explosion of Android devices entering the market and, because of our successes, competitors are responding with lawsuits as they cannot respond through innovations. I’m not too worried about this,” Schmidt said.

All this “legal fun,” however, may have real-life consequences for Android device manufacturers such as HTC. Microsoft, for instance, is already shaving off US$5.00 for every Android phone that HTC sells. And, if Microsoft succeeds again with its plan to fleece Samsung of US$15.00 for every Android device that Samsung sells, Microsoft will make boatloads of cash from an operating system that it did not create.

There is “legal fun,” all right, and it’s painted on everyone’s faces–except on the faces of Android device manufacturers, much less on the faces of Android users who will be at the suffering end of this whole equation because licensing agreements with Apple and Microsoft, for instance, will increase the cost of Android devices.

What’s your non-legal opinion about this legal brouhaha that Android has gotten itself into?

Image credit: Daniel Adel (New York Times)

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