c|net: How Google’s stealth support is buoying Samsung in Apple fight
Google may have kept a low profile amid the legal clashing between Samsung Electronics and Apple, but the company hasn’t abandoned its Android partners.
Rather, Google has been quietly lending support, coordinating with Samsung over legal strategies, providing advice, doing extra legwork, and searching for prior evidence, CNET has learned from people familiar with the situation. Last month, Google asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to intervene on HTC’s behalf in its case against Nokia. In addition, many of the companies that rely on Google’s Android operating system to power their handsets, coincidentally or not, have tapped Google’s law firm of choice.
The steps Google has taken to aid its allies illustrate the tenuous line the company walks as Apple wages war against many of them. Though Google and its Android platform have a vested interest in Google partners succeeding, the company has yet to directly take on Apple itself.
“Google will want to stay away from this trial as much as possible,” said Neil Shah, an analyst at Strategy Analytics. “They don’t want to directly confront Apple.”
Apple filed a lawsuit last year accusing Samsung of violating patents involved in the creation of the iPhone and iPad. The trial, which has captivated the tech sector, began last week and is expected to last late into the month (read CNET’s full coverage here). The parties are due back in court this morning.
Apple’s various lawsuits represent an attempt to slow the momentum that Android has enjoyed over the last few years. While the iPhone 4S remains a phenomenally successful single device, there are scores of Android phones constantly flooding the market, ever extending Google’s reach with consumers. As of the second quarter, Android phones represented more than half of the smartphone market, compared with the one-third share for Apple, according to market research firm ComScore.
The squabble has centered on the look and feel of Samsung’s phones, from the hardware to the software. The latter, of course, is Google’s Android. Apple, however, hasn’t accused Google of being a copycat in any litigation.
Instead Apple has hammered on Samsung for making changes to its software to make its products look more like the iPhone at a software level. And on the outside, Apple has accused Samsung of mimicking visual features like the metallic bezel and rounded corners. In turn, Samsung has responded by noting that the Android-specific buttons on the front of its phones offer ways to differentiate the companies’ products from one another.
Other than that, Google’s name hasn’t come up much in the trial.
A curious link
Nonetheless, Google still has one important link to the case: Quinn Emanuel.
The firm representing Samsung has become Google’s law firm of choice in matters of intellectual property. Quinn Emanuel lawyers have represented the search company in numerous patent and copyright cases.
It just so happens that Quinn Emanuel attorney Charles Verhoeven, one of the lead lawyers for Samsung, is also representing HTC and Motorola, two of Google’s Android partners, in patent litigation brought against them by Apple. Quinn Emanuel also represented Barnes & Noble, which uses Android as the operating system for its Nook e-book readers, when Microsoft accused the book merchant of violating its patents.
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