News by Dan Seifert on Saturday September 03, 2011.
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Apple may be prepared to significantly shake up the Android ecosystem, if its latest filing with the International Trade Commission is recognized and has weight. In the filing, Apple claims that Andy Rubin, Google's head of mobile and the Android project, got inspiration for key parts of the platform during his time at Apple in the early nineties, long before the iPhone, Android, or even the iPod were invented.
Apple makes the point that the particular patent in question in its case against HTC was developed at Apple while Rubin was a low-level engineer. The patent was filed by his senior supervisors, so Apple alleges that Rubin could have contributed to the development of the technology in the patent.
In the brief submitted to the ITC, Apple says: "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." Towards the end of the filing, Apple points out that its reasoning for submitting this information was because HTC claimed that Rubin started his career with General Magic and Danger in the mid-nineties, without mentioning his time at Apple.
Since Rubin was never an employee of HTC, this particular point doesn't have too many legal implications for this case. However, it could be very important should Apple ever try to sue Google over Android as a whole. If so, an injunction could be granted that blocks Google from distributing Android, effectively crippling the ecosystem. The key here is that Google could be found guilty of willfully infringing on the patent in question, since Apple could prove that Rubin was well aware of the patent. Things also get more complicated for Google if its proposed purchase of Motorola Mobility gets approved, as Apple already has a case against Motorola for this particular patent as well.
For a deeper look, and more analysis on this, be sure to check out Florian Mueller's post on it over at FOSS Patents.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.