Commentary

Google Patent Lawsuits Could Shape Future Mobile Handset Features

GavelSmartphone and email users relying on tap-to-call or tap-to-schedule features on a variety of portable devices might infringe on patents granted to Apple and Microsoft.

The patent granted to Apple called "Portable electronic devices with graphical user interface supporting application switching" relies on "a touch screen display, a user interface for a phone application during a phone call." It enables users to toggle between applications while talking on a mobile phone without dropping the call.

"How someone would both talk on the phone and play 'Angry Birds' is one question, but why they would want to do it is another," said George Michie, CEO and co-founder of Rimm Kaufman Group. Actually, it's not so much the game play, but rather people tend to toggle between apps frequently to look up stored phone numbers in their phone's address book or dates in their scheduler, for example.

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Apple continues the battle to protect its intellectual property in about a dozen lawsuits worldwide. A U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that set down earlier this week that HTC violated one of Apple's patents might have little effect on Android phone makers, but it could influence features on future phones.

HTC already reports creating a workaround.

Apple is not the only tech giant winning a ruling over Google. A patent covering a Microsoft program called ActiveSync secures a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission finding that Motorola Mobility, being acquired by Google for $12.5 billion, violates a patent for generating meeting requests and group scheduling.

Kenshoo CMO Aaron Goldman believes the ruling only applies to phone numbers in documents, such as email and schedulers. "I haven't seen anything about it being applicable to ads, which is a good thing since click-to-call mobile search ads are quite popular," he said. 

More than numbers in documents, online marketing executives should monitor activity around Google's Click-to-Call feature. A series of three patent filings point to Google's call technology either related to communication or connection, where a phone number appears in a mobile advertisement or Web page and consumers need only click on the highlighted link to connect with the business. 

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