Phone war heats up

With its lawsuit against HTC, Apple sees former ally Google as a new threat.

“We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a press release last Tuesday. “We’ve decided to do something about it.”

The notice ended a long smartphone market detente between the iPhone manufacturer and former-ally-turned-emerging-rival Google. The patent-infringement lawsuits (dealing half with touch-screen interfaces and half with broader operating system concepts) filed last week in the state of Delaware and with the U.S. International Trade Commission named only HTC Corp. of Taiwan, the world’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer and makers of Google’s new Nexus One phone. But the search-engine company itself was implicated throughout, with references to their Android operating system as common in the filings as mentions of HTC.

So far, nobody’s talking. HTC was caught off-guard by the action, finding out about it through media reports. A Google spokesperson suggested that the company had HTC’s back in the dispute, but no broader response has been issued. And Apple seems content for now to let its actions speak for themselves.

“We think competition is healthy,” Jobs said in the release. “But competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”