HTC Corp. on Thursday filed infringement claims against Apple Inc. using nine patents it bought from Google Inc.
HTC, Asia's second-biggest maker of smartphones, supported its claims with nine patents originated with Palm Inc., Motorola Inc. and Openwave Systems Inc.
According to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records, Google acquired the patents less than a year ago and transferred the patents to HTC on Aug. 29, and the transfer was made official on Sept. 1.
A Bloomberg report noted Jim Prosser, a spokesman for California- based Google, would not discuss reasons for the transaction. However, industry observers see the transaction as Google's show of support to its Android partners.
"That's a bit of a game-changer," said Will Stofega, a technology analyst at Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC. "Google was interested in protecting its licensees with Android. It shows they need to support their customers in order to make sure the customers stick with them."
HTC now has more ammunition in its fight to fend off multiple patent-infringement claims lodged by Apple that contend phones running Google's Android operating system copy the iPhone. Google's perceived efforts in supporting HTC represents a new paradigm in an industry-wide dispute over smartphone technology that has also affected Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
The lawsuit contends the Mac computer, iPhone, iPod, iPad, iCloud and iTunes are infringing patents for a way to upgrade software wirelessly; a way to transfer data between a microprocessor and a support chip; a method to store user preferences, and a way to provide consistent contact between application software and a radio modem.
Google, which has not been sued directly by Apple, has previously been criticized for not doing anything while Android partners faced lawsuits. Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC, which gained attention in the U.S. by making the first phone to run Android, has defended itself partly by bringing two infringement cases against Apple at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, one submitted last year and another last month.
HTC also agreed to buy closely held S3 Graphics Co. less than a week after that company won a preliminary patent ruling against Apple.
"Google knows that HTC is under tremendous legal pressure from Apple and clearly on the losing track," Florian Mueller, a Munich-based consultant and intellectual property activist. "This intervention on Google's part increases the likelihood of direct litigation by Apple against Google."
Google, which had been issued fewer than 1,000 patents as of the start of this year, had said it would build a stronger patent portfolio as a defense against intellectual property lawsuits. It did a good follow through as it agreed last month to spend $12.5 billion to buy Motorola Mobility, acquiring more than 17,000 patents.