Then Google CEO Eric Schmidt shares the stage with Steve Jobs at the January 2007 iPhone unveiling. The times of happiness would abruptly come to an end amid Android whispers, culminating with Apple announcing Schmidt’s resignation from its board August 3, 2009.

Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has gone on the offensive and bashed Apple over patent infringement claims the company had filed against high-profile Android backers such HTC and Samsung. In what could be viewed as an effort to sway the public perception, he launched a nasty attack speaking at Google’s Mobile Revolution conference in Tokyo. To Schmidt, Apple’s taking rivals to court sends a strong signal, that of the lack of innovation and jealousy:

The big news in the past year has been the explosion of Google Android handsets and this means our competitors are responding. Because they are not responding with innovation, they’re responding with lawsuits. We have not done anything wrong and these lawsuits are just inspired by our success.

Schmidt re-iterated sales of 135 million Android phones since 2008 and highlighted more than 550,000 daily activations that exclude tablets and non-smartphone devices, which is up from 400,000 a day in May. He said Google will support HTC’s legal battle against Apple’s copyright accusations, but wouldn’t elaborate.

Whether or not Apple’s legal pressure stems from jealousy is up for debate, of course. Cynics might argue Schmidt’s comment draws from nervousness on Google’s part because Android backers are increasingly discovering hidden costs as Microsoft and Apple emerge as holders of patents crucial to Google’s mobile operating system. Apple’s victory over HTC may set what RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky painted as a high royalty precedent for Android devices that could further shrink the already slim margins on Android phones.

As if that wasn’t enough, Microsoft is already taking money from five Android vendors for patent protection, including HTC which is said to pay five bucks each time it ships an Android handset and General Dynamics Itronix. Microsoft is also understood to have targeted Samsung, seeking royalties in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. The Cupertino, California-headquartered gadget giant quoted Steve Jobs in a statement announcing the HTC lawsuit March last year:

We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We’ve decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.

Legal wrangling between Apple and HTC took an interesting twist when the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled last Friday in favor of Apple. ITC, an organization empowered to resolve trade disputes and ban imports of infringing products into the United States, found out HTC violated two of Apple’s patents related to iPhone technologies, US Patent Nos. 5946647 and 6343263. The agency commissioners will decide upon the ruling later this year. Meanwhile, investors sent HTC shares down nearly seven percent fearing that Apple will seek to put an import ban on Android-driven HTC phones sold in America.

Cross-posted on 9to5Google.com

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