Should Apple license deals with Android instead of sue?

by Kristen Nicole

Android succeeded against all odds, but Google’s mobile OS has faced a flurry of patent infringement lawsuits from every major rival. Android device manufacturers have been hit especially hard by cases from Apple, who’s deceased founder had a personal vendetta against Android for stealing his ideas. And while Microsoft’s taken the licensing approach to Android’s fame, Apple wants nothing to do with this gravy train. But is Apple making the right call?

Misdirected ire could hurt Apple shareholders

Kevin Rivette, managing partner at intellectual property firm 3LP Advisors LLC tells Bloomberg that Apple could be making $10 for every Android device sold, which is twice as much as the $5 per unit Microsoft is estimated to earn from every HTC Android device sold. But instead of forging licensing deals for Android developments found to infringe on Apple’s patents, Apple wants to stop Android’s growth all together. It’s an aggressive approach Rivette believes is disadvantageous to Apple in the end, because it’s unlikely to actually stop Android’s success.

“A scorched-earth strategy is bad news because it doesn’t optimize the value of their patents—because people will get around them,” Rivette says. “It’s like a dam. Using their patents to keep rivals out is like putting rocks in a stream. The stream is going to find a way around. Wouldn’t it be better to direct where the water goes?”

That’s exactly what happened in the recent case between Apple and HTC, where the latter was found in violation of an Apple patent. HTC quickly released a work around within 24 hours, hardly missing a beat, diminishing Apple’s victory after all.

It’s a question of who controls the mobile ecosystem, and where profits are made. Apple and Google are particularly ill-fated as rivals because of the necessity for both platform owners to command as much of the ecosystem as possible, but Apple’s tactics for using patents as legal control methods isn’t a guaranteed way to block Android’s growth.