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Apple spends hundreds of millions to sue Android makers, is it working?

Newsweek‘s Dan Lyons reported today that Apple’s “thermonuclear war” on Android smartphone manufacturers is fading fast, while a new rumor surfaced among the suits’ lawyers claiming the company spent $100 million on its initial set of claims against HTC.

Imagine how much Apple spent on other Android makers, such as Motorola (who is near locking Apple products out of Germany in retaliation) or Samsung (the biggest Mobile Communications patent holder in the world), if it spent so much on just HTC.

“Who knows if it’s true, but if so, Apple didn’t get a lot for its money,” wrote Lyons on his RealDanLyons’ blog Jan. 23.

Apple’s legal claims are abruptly junked left and right, and its only minor victories to date are so inconsequential that Android device makers can dance around the momentary obstacles with just a few minor tweaks to products, explained the Newsweek reporter.

The technology giant’s case against HTC with the International Trade Commission began in February 2010, when the Cupertino, Calif.-based company wanted the ITC to block HTC from importing products into the United States. The case originally had 84 claims based on 10 patents, but it was dwindled down to only four claims by the time a judge became involved, according to Lyons.

The rulings —for the most part— were a wash for Apple. One patent was invalid as Apple did not have a rightful claim to it, and HTC did not infringe upon two of the other patents due to Apple apparently not implementing them into its products. In other words, Apple did not have a right to seek an injunction, because ITC injunctions can only occur if it is provable that both parties are “practicing” the patent in question, which Apple could not demonstrate against HTC…

The final patent was found valid that HTC was infringing a relatively minuscule software feature that lets users press on a phone number in an email or website to open a menu for calling the number or sending a text message, and such like actions. Subsequently, HTC can remove the feature from United States devices or implement it through a function that avoids infringement.

A second complaint against HTC involves other patents. One case is awaiting a March 2013 ruling while another is pending at the ITC. The cases are also filed under U.S. district courts, but they are on-pause until the ITC rules on them.

On the other hand, HTC has two claims of its own that are pending against Apple with the ITC. The first one is awaiting decision next month and the second in April 2013. Of course, numerous patent cases around the globe are on going against Apple, HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Apple even lost to Nokia last year and ordered to pay royalties for infringing upon Nokia patents.

With that said, Lyons concluded the issues-at-hand regarding the not-so-hot “thermonuclear war” perfectly:

So Apple started out with 10 patents — presumably its best ones — and ended up with a tiny victory on just one. Was that worth $100 million?

Apple certainly can afford the legal fees, and shows no sign of letting up.

The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google’s Android software was akin to “grand theft,” and that he would spend his “last dying breath” proving his case.

“I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs told Isaacson. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

The biographer later described a meeting with Google’s Eric Schmidt at a Palo Alto, Calif., where Jobs told Schmidt that he was not interested in settling the lawsuit: “I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”

Nevertheless, what has Apple won with its hundreds of millions of dollars — a few weeks of a Samsung Galaxy Tab reprieve in Australia and some redesigned products elsewhere?

Perhaps this is simply an expensive branding exercise meant to label the Android makers as “copyists.”

This article is cross-posted on 9to5Google.

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