Unless you've been living under a rock over the last few years, you would have heard of, or at least seen, an Apple iPhone. Introduced in 2007, the capacitive touch keyboard-less smartphone was dubbed the "Jesus Phone" and has become responsible for a large proportion of Apple's profits. Last year, Apple introduced the iPad, a slate form-factor computer that has fast become the leading device of its type.
The closest competitors to the iPhone and iPad use Google's Android operating system, and over the last few months the devices running Android have become increasingly competitive with Apple's flagship mobile products. To stave off this competition, Apple has turned to its arsenal of patents, aiming them squarely at companies making competing Android-based products, bringing patent infringement proceedings against some of the largest handset manufacturers including HTC, and Motorola Mobility.
Of particular concern to Apple is Samsung, who make the Galaxy line of Android-based smartphones and tablets. The Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 are widely considered to be the closest competitors to the iPhone 5 and iPad 2 respectively. Apple has successfully prevented (or at least delayed) the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia, and most recently in Germany (in a decision that could have Europe-wide consequences). Apple has also sought an injunction preventing the sale in Europe of Motorola's Android-based slate computer, the Xoom. For more information about the Apple/Samsung dispute and Apple's increasing market capitalisation, see the Davies Collison Cave partner David Webber's comments in yesterday's Australian Financial Review, and the most recent orders in the Australian litigation.
It is apparent that companies involved in making smartphones, and the operating systems that run them, need to compete not only on price and features, but now also in strong, enforceable intellectual property.