Apple is currently riding high on its victory over rival Samsung in Germany. German courts sided with Apple and banned sales of Samsung's tablets, as they say Apple owns exclusive rights to minimalist tablet designs. As reports indicate that Samsung is currently the only major Android company currently coming close to rivaling Apple in sales, Apple for now enjoys a court-enforced monopoly on the tablet market for the time being.
Now, Taiwanese motherboard, CPU, and chipset maker VIA Technologies has just filed suit in U.S. Federal Court in Delaware, seeking to ban sales of Apple's iPad and iPhone, which it says infringe upon three of its U.S. patents. VIA is also seeking damages and has asked for a trial by jury.
VIA writes, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by Bloomberg, "The products at issue generally concern microprocessors included in a variety of electronic products such as certain smartphones, tablet computers, portable media players and other computing devices."
The company seems in good position to see success. The Delaware court is known as a plaintiff friendly region, akin to the Eastern District Federal Court of Texas.
For VIA the suit is somewhat personal, as the company has close ties to "patent poor" HTC, a recent target of Apple's intellectual property aggression. VIA recently sold its S3 Graphics subsidiary to HTC for $300M USD. VIA had already won a lawsuit against Apple for patents held by S3 -- HTC is now using that victory to try to force Apple to cross license the IP that would allow it to continue to sell Android tablets and smartphones in the U.S. and other regions.
Unlike with Samsung, HTC, Nokia Oyj or Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility, VIA likely does not make any products that Apple can target in countersuits.
Apple started the patent war last year by suing HTC claiming infringements on various technology patents (such as interrupt-based processor undervolting) and its iPad/iPhone design patents. Since then the war has swept the globe, reaching WWII-esque proportions. On one side sits Samsung, Google, and HTC (and effectively, VIA); on the other side sits Apple.
The Android team has been arming themselves. Aside from the S3 acquisition, Google's purchase of Motorola served to consolidate the manufacturers patents for use by the greater Android coalition. And Google recently purchased 1,000 patents from IBM to further aid in the defense of Android.
The escalation poses significant risk to Apple's bottom line. While there's a small chance the company will be able to leverage the lawsuits to retain tablet market dominance and regain dominance in the smartphone sector, there's a strong possibility that the plan make backfire. If the Android allies win their countersuits, Apple may see its own products banned. Furthermore, many have suggested that Apple's campaign may be hurting Apple's "cool" brand image. After all, as one top blogger told DailyTech, "It's hard to seem cool when you're suing everybody."