Apple Claims Andy Rubin Allegedly Got Inspiration for Android Framework while Working at Apple

Before I report this news for you, I want to point out one of the patents in question here in case you’ve missed it. U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647 involves the following. When you receive an incoming message on your iPhone containing a phone number, web link, e-mail address, or street address, this information is highlighted and turned into a link that you can tap. This tap in turn performs an action like opening the web link in Safari or asking if you would like to dial the phone number. That’s weird because I would have thought tapping a phone number should open your music player. Surely, who ever implemented that process on Android must have stolen it from Apple.  Just food for thought since this is one of many patents Apple says HTC is in violation of.

Newly introduced into Apple’s patent infringement case against HTC  involves Andy Rubin, co-founder of Android Inc. Apple is alleging that Rubin took inspiration for Android’s framework from APIs he supposedly encountered while working for Apple in the early 90s. Hit up the break for more.

Apple is claiming that Rubin was a low level engineer while working at Apple who reported to inventors of the ‘263 patent. Here’s the reply brief and screenshot of the document from Apple to the Administrative Law Judge’s initial determination that found HTC to infringe two patents, ‘263 and ‘647 that I mentioned above:

Android and Mr. Rubin’s relevant background does not start, as HTC would like the Commission to believe, with his work at General Magic or Danger in the mid-1990s. In reality, as the evidence revealed at the hearing, Mr. Rubin began his career at Apple in the early 1990s and worked as a low-level engineer specifically reporting to the inventors of the ‘263 [realtime API] patent at the exact time their invention was being conceived and developed. […] It is thus no wonder that the infringing Android platform used the claimed subsystem approach of the ‘263 patent that allows for flexibility of design and enables the platform to be “highly customizable and expandable” as HTC touts. […] While Mr. Rubin’s inspiration for the Android framework may not be directly relevant to the pending petitions for review, that HTC felt compelled to distort this history is illustrative of the liberties it takes in attacking the ALJ’s [initial determination] and the substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s findings.

Mueller from Fosspatents points out and says “Android […] does not start […] at General Magic or Danger. According to this filing, it all started at Apple!” Now, I’m just a Technology fan, and I make no claims to be able to work this all out in a court room. What pops into my head as a simple reader is Android does not act or look anything like iOS nor do I think Android started at Apple. Having a device that asks you if you want to dial someone’s number by tapping it on the screen sure doesn’t seem like an idea you would have to steal from someone. Mueller also mentions that the judge in Oracle’s lawsuit against Google also suspects Rubin of willful patent infringement. I’d say if you can prove Rubin worked directly on these patents or stole code from Apple, Google would have a serious problem on their hands. It’s my instinct and opinion to say they patent system for software ideas is seriously broken and I don’t believe most judges can understand how software code really works. Let’s hear your thoughts on this one.

[via fosspatents]

About the Author: Harold Williams

Harold was born and raised in Whitehall, NY (supposedly the birthplace of the US Navy). His first real smartphone experience belonged to Nokia and Symbian. Following came years of being a happy BlackBerry follower with a brief moment on Windows Mobile. Once a Droid X landed in his hands, he was forever converted to the dark side of the force. Memories of a Star Tac filled his head with happiness and once again joining Motorola in a new revolution. When not playing guitar he's following the tech world via Twitter and the mobile web trying to fill his need to have and know about the latest and greatest tech. Being grateful for all the free tools Google has provided, he is now sold on Google for life. In the real world he is filling his dorky needs as a project manager for a medical technology company.

  • Chris Arnold

    Hmm, yeah.. w/e. I had this feature on my Sony Ericsson w800i as standard. Long before Android or iPhones.

  • AL7AIR

    I’m with Chris, the old Symbian S60 powered Nokias I owned over the years had the highlight feature for phone numbers, emails and web addresses with a convenient click to open functionality.

  • Bippy McNally

    I’m so tired of these stupid patents that shouldn’t be rewarded. iPhone is the least customizable phone out. It’s scrolling pages of app launcher squares that scroll left to right. This link crap is ridiculous. You can do the same thing on a PC/Mac. What next? A lawsuit for being able to tap the phone icon on the screen and get sued because it places a call? It’s a touchscreen. Your finger is the mouse in a sense, so it should be able to do common sense things like tap/click a link and it perform an action. How about that new notification shade Apple?

  • Bippy McNally

    ..patents that shouldn’t be *awarded.

  • Bippy McNally

    Also, Apple spent spends some of its resources to keep you from jailbreaking, instead of doing that, maybe they should investigate as to why people want to customize/jailbreak their phones. Maybe the truth is that a lot of the ideas came from, and out of, the Cydia market that it tries so hard to stop. Even spending millions on a lawsuit at one point, all in the name of complete control of your phone (other than app placement choice on your screen).

  • Charlie

    Apple sues for every little thing, I had a non touch phone (before iPhone and Android) that had the highlight link thing… I feel its a basic feature that ALL phones have and they should throw that lawsuit out. Apple is afraid of comp.

  • Aincalandorn

    I had it on my Blackberry Flip and my mom had it on her Blackberry Curve (8300 series, I believe). Her phone came out the same year the iPhone did; and chances are, this “subsystem” was there long before Apple released said phone (I imagine the Blackberries prior to the Curve had it). Hell, I think my first phone (Treo 650) had that system in it…

    I wonder if Apple is trying to become the next King Patten Troll…

  • Lawrence D’Oliveiro

    Of course, being a low-level engineer, he would automatically have been privy to his bosses’ discussion of all the most important strategic patentable ideas, wouldn’t he? Because that’s how they do things at a company that puts such a high value on its Intellectual Property.

  • wtf

    maybe Apple will sue us for not buying there shiny new super dumb phone :)

  • Angela gamblin

    I had a Palm Treo a year or two before the iphone appeared, which had some primitive touchscreen features. Applying the current logic,perhaps Palm should sue apple for improving on their idea. I imagine in apple’s world that, or what the rest of us call INNOVATION – constitutes theft, correct?

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