Google gives HTC nine patents to use against Apple

The smartphone patent wars escalate as Google signs nine over to HTC to use in legal battle against Apple. But is the search giant making itself a target?

This mobile lawsuit chart needs an update with this news.

With this news, this mobile patent lawsuit chart needs an update.

Google signed nine patents over to HTC last week, giving the smartphone manufacturer new grounds to counterattack Apple with infringement claims, Bloomberg reports.

Those patents - three of which originated from Openwave Systems, two from Palm, and four from Motorola - all came to Google less than a year ago. Why, exactly, Google gave them to HTC on August 29th, no one is saying.

But the important bit is that these new patents give HTC enough ammunition to sue Apple for infringement in a lawsuit, as well as file a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) on September 6th. It's a strike back against Apple for claiming that Google Android violates its own patents.

That lawsuit, which was filed in Delaware, shows that HTC is claiming the following, according to Bloomberg:

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.

Oh, and the patents at issue in the complaint HTC filed against Apple? Again from the Bloomberg report:

The patents in the ITC case relate to an interface that lets the user add identifiers such as .com or .org; an interface that enlarges characters being typed; a way to display information on mobile devices; and status bars that let a user check phone calls, text messages or calendar events.

Frankly, all of those sound like ridiculous things for any manufacturer to hold a patent on. "A method to store user preferences?" "A way to display information on a mobile device?"

When the actual "innovations" these tech titans are arguing about are laid out like that, Google chairman Eric Schmidt's concerns about constant patent battles stifling innovation seem to take on more weight.

Apple, of course, says that it has no problem with competition but its rivals need to come up with its own technology. HTC says that it has a duty to protect its corporate interests, but is open to talking with Apple directly to settle matters.

Google's strategy in this patent shuffle is both inscrutable and completely obvious. In the wake of the Motorola Mobility acquisition, Google wants to reaffirm its commitment to its Android handset manufacturer partners. And without these patents and a countersuit, HTC would continue its losing streak against Apple in court.

But if Google wanted to avoid these legal morasses entirely, this wasn't the way to do it. Buying Motorola Mobility made Google a legal target already. But giving HTC these patents means that Apple may well have an excuse to take action against Google directly now, something which the search giant has so far avoided in all of these Android cases.

The smartphone market is exploding, and these manufacturing giants continue to scramble to protect their turf. And there's no sign that things are going to let up, especially for Google Android handset manufacturers.