HTC is suing Apple with patents transferred from Google as a defense against Apple's lawsuit. Meanwhile, Acer and Viewsonic have signed patent licensing agreements with Microsoft.
HTC Counters Apple with Google Patents
Google transferred nine patents to Taiwan-based hardware developer HTC, the company that made the first Android device. The nine patents came from earlier Google acquisitions, including four patents from Motorola Mobility, acquired last month. Those nine patents were then used to start a case against Apple, according to Bloomberg.
It's offense as a defense for HTC, who is currently being sued by Apple for patent infringement. Apple claims that HTC is violating patents on the iPhone. HTC's counter is that Apple violates patents for updating software wirelessly.
Google and HTC are working in tandem in this case. It may be that Google handed off the patents so they could counter Apple without having to step into the arena themselves. Among other incentives, Google has long maintained that patent cases slow innovation, so any patent suits could be seen as hypocritical.
Of course, HTC's anti-patent crossfire doesn't mean they're completely on Google's side. HTC already signed a patent licensing agreement with Microsoft for $5 per device, pre-empting any Microsoft attempts at patent lawsuits.
The Microsoft Licensing Deals
HTC may have been the first Android hardware developer to license with Microsoft, but Acer and Viewsonic have now followed in their footsteps. While the exact terms haven't yet been released, Microsoft indicated previously that they were seeking $7.50 to $12.50 per device.
Microsoft is certainly pleased with the arrangement, with Microsoft executive Horacio Gutierrez calling the agreements "an example of how industry leaders can reach commercially reasonable arrangements that address intellectual property."
Android Keeps on Trucking
Despite the various patent cases, Google's Android is continuing unhindered. Executive Chair Eric Schmidt recently announced that Google Android OS 2.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) would be out in October or November of this year.
Additionally, the company has developed an action plan to stop fragmentation while still keeping Android open.
According to an internal Google document, Google is planning to release versions of Android only after innovation is complete (the documents specifically says "Do not develop in the open.") and give early access to companies (i.e., Motorola, Verizon) that "build and distribute devices to our specifications." What those specifications might be is uncertain, but the tactic will give Google greater hardware control than they have had to date.