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Saturday, February 11, 2012, 02:54 pm PT (05:54 pm ET)

Apple asks for US preliminary injunction of Samsung's Android 4.0 Galaxy Nexus

Apple is leveraging four recently granted patents to seek a preliminary injunction against sales of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone, Google's Android 4.0 flagship device, as part of a new federal lawsuit that also involves other patent claims.

General details of the new suit were published yesterday, but according to a report by Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, Apple's latest suit targets the Galaxy Nexus, parallel to a separate complaint last fall, but differing in several key respects.



Case two: All guns blazing

Mueller notes that in this new case, Apple has filed for a preliminary injunction at the same time as its ongoing suit alleging patent infringement. In the prior case, Apple filed the case first and then added a request for a preliminary injunction. As a result, Samsung argued that Apple's filings indicated a lack of urgency or necessity in getting an injunction in place.

Apple is also outlining the actual costs and damages it suffers through the availability of Samsung's infringing products.

The complaint is also based on patents that were recently issued, so as Mueller notes, "there's no more argument over Apple having tolerated infringement for a long time before bringing a complaint." Apple also portrays Samsung as "as an unrepentant, 'recidivist' infringer whom the courts must finally stop," Mueller points out.

The patents in question also related to specific, technical features rather than "software design related rights."

The four patents

The four patents Apple is asserting against the Galaxy Nexus include the Data Detectors patent Apple successfully used to win an ITC injunction against HTC: U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647 "System and Method for Performing an Action on a Structure in Computer-Generated Data."

Google's decision to keep Data Detectors in Android 4.0 even after the ITC ruled it as infringement in the HTC case, Muller wrote, "is unfair vis-à-vis HTC (whose products are weaker because they have to respect the decision), snubs Apple, and shows disregard for intellectual property in general and the ITC in particular. This is a case of willful, extremely reckless infringement."

Secondly, U.S. Patent No. 8,086,604 "Universal Interface for Retrieval of Information in a Computer System" is a "new patent related to Siri and unified search," which Mueller notes, "must be of huge concern to Google with a view to its core business."

The third, U.S. Patent No. 8,046,721 "Unlocking a Device by Performing Gestures on an Unlock Image" is the slide to unlock patent that Apple has previous asserted in other cases, including a German suit against the Galaxy Nexus. The government in Taiwan expressed concern about the patent after it was granted last fall.

The fourth, U.S. Patent No. 8,074,172 "Method, System, and Graphical User Interface for Providing Word Recommendations," Mueller described as "a word completion patent that provides major speed improvements for touchscreen text entry."

Shooting down Nexus

That Apple is taking direct aim at the Galaxy Nexus is interesting in that the model represents the latest version of Android 4.0 software, as well as being the latest official Google-led design using a stock install of Android, as opposed to devices marketed by Motorola, Samsung or HTC with layers of vendor-specific, differentiating software on them.

This takes Apple's infringement case directly to Google's Android, while focusing the damages upon the most successful Android licensee with the deepest pockets: Samsung.

The rollout of Android 4.0 is occurring very slowly, making the Galaxy Nexus the primary vehicle for Google's latest version of its mobile operating system. The 4.0 release aims at bringing a variety of enhancements and technologies originally created to enable Android to power tablets systems in last year's Android 3.0 Honeycomb release. It's also required to install Google's latest Chrome browser.

While Android 4.0 currently only represents 1 percent of the installed base of Android devices, the Galaxy Nexus also represents the more profitable higher end of the Android product range, making it more effective for Apple to target than the large volume of virtually profitless basic feature phones that also use Android.

Disrupting its feature set and forcing the removal infringing features from Android 4.0 will likely blunt the deployment of other Android licensee's high end products, making it even more difficult to earn profits on the platform.