Cold War over Android Patenting

Cold War over Android Patenting

Parimal Kumar, Stellarix

Android

Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. It is built from the developers to create compiling mobile applications that take full advantage of all the handset has to offer. It is an open source OS built on the Linux Kernel. It utilizes a custom virtual machine that is designed to optimize memory and hardware resources in a mobile environment. This platform will continue to evolve as the developer community works together to build innovative mobile applications. Java programming language is used to develop the Android application. Devices built on the Android Platform, able users to fully tailor the phone of their interests. User can swap out the phone’s home screen, the style of the dialler, or any other applications. They can even instruct their phones to use their favourite photo viewing application to handle the viewing of all photos.

From seeing the drawn graph we can easily understand that how the Android market is dominating Smartphone world. As per the graph, in the United States, currently Android OS owns the largest coverage of smart-phone users with a 43% whooping market share as compared to 27% of Apple and 19% of RIM. But there are several other issues involved with Android that may definitely hamper its growth rate in the future e.g. patent war, threat of malware and viruses. With the few points which will be mentioned we see how the patent war is affecting Android and its owner.

Android patent war

Android is under attack by Oracle for using Java platform for developing android applications without license. Oracle sued Google on 12th August 2010 clamming infringement of copyrights and patents on Java programming language. The patent infringement claim references 7 United States patents.

Android system, Google and the system model leading manufacturers e.g. Samsung, Motorola are having 2552 relevant patent application.

Highlight of Patent War

  • Google and Android handset manufacturers have been sued by Apple, Microsoft and Oracle claiming they are infringing the patents.
  • Handset Manufactures might have to pay $60 towards their manufactured handset licensing fee.
  • Hand set manufactures will move closer to Microsoft.

Android OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) are also attack by Apple and Microsoft for patent and design infringement. Android is a real threat to Apple iOS and other Smartphone OS like WP7, WebOS 2, Bada.

The pie chart below shows that Samsung is the leader with more than 36,000 mobile patents followed by the LG Electronics having 31, 276 patents. Motorola patents which is acquired by Google leads in 3rdposition among the number of mobile patents held by Android mobile manufacturers.

On the other side Android based original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of mobile holding patents includes Sony Ericson, Toshiba, Huawei, ZTE, Kyocera, DELL, HTC, Lenovo, Acer, Archos, Asus, and Google. The total number of mobile patents held by all Android mobile manufacturers is 118,205.

Giants like Microsoft, Nokia and Apple  each have thousands of patents each, while Google’s portfolio is reportedly on the low end—”under 1,000.”

Google has made a smart move by acquiring 17000 patents of Motorola for $12.5 billion. It may give some protection to Google and other Android based handset manufactures. Google can use those patents as a weapon to attack Microsoft and Apple.

Conclusion:

Android ecosystem has been already damaged by its competitors due to its lack of patent protection. As per consequences Apple has already blocked the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab all over the Europe and in Netherlands for a certain period of time because Samsung has infringed upon Apple Tab applications.

Also, Samsung, HTC and other handset manufactures (in case infringement law suit is proven) must have to pay royalties to Apple and Microsoft for each Smartphone it ships with Google Android OS. It clearly shows that the devices will become more expensive due to higher manufacturing cost and the license fee that OEM’s has to pay to owners (Apple & Microsoft) which would ultimately result in the slowdown of sales of the Google Android platform.

The patent war can be useful for the users when it comes to the equal distribution of market shares to the other mobile platforms. Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony Ericsson and others are the big Android users and they may have feel of being neglected because Google has chosen Motorola mobile portfolio to fight over lawsuits from other companies. Along with the android phones manufacturing these companies may move to Windows Phone to be on the safe side in the future, while Nokia and other manufacturer want to support their own platform to raise its market share. The acquisition over Motorola will be catalyst for other companies to reduce the dependence on Google platform. It enables Google to be longer in the patent war. As longer as the patent war continues the market will be levelled out. And in despite of additional production cost, the prices of the Smartphone will go down. If this happens the purchaser will definitely win the patent war.

References:

  1. Smartphone market share in US
  2. Mobile Patents for Android OEM
  3. Patent War

– Parimal Kumar, Stellarix

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