Apple Reportedly Disrupting iPhone Competitors With Legal Threats Backed Up by HTC Suit

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Fortune reports on a new research note from Oppenhiemer & Co.'s Yair Reiner claiming that Apple in January began high-level talks with major phone manufacturers expressing its displeasure with what it considers to be infringement of its iPhone-related intellectual property. According to the report, Apple's recent lawsuit against HTC has served to back up the company's position in these talks and has sent competitors scrambling to deal with the threat. Reiner writes:

Starting in January, Apple launched a series of C-Level discussions with tier-1 handset makers to underscore its growing displeasure at seeing its iPhone-related IP [intellectual property] infringed. The lawsuit filed against HTC thus appears to be Apple's way of putting a public, lawyered-up exclamation point on a series of blunt conversations that have been occurring behind closed doors.

Our checks also suggest that these warning shots are meaningfully disrupting the development roadmaps for would-be iPhone killers. Rival software and hardware teams are going back to the drawing board to look for work-arounds. Lawyers are redoubling efforts to gauge potential defensive and offensive responses. And strategy teams are working to chart OS strategies that are better hedged.

Fortune's report offers more detail on Reiner's description of how events have unfolded, building from Apple's January 2009 promise to aggressively defend its iPhone intellectual property to the company's decision to press its position as other multi-touch handsets have begun to come to market.

Reiner also notes that much of the conflict has occurred with companies utilizing Google's Android operating system, which is seen as Apple's true target. In response, Microsoft has reportedly begun seizing the opportunity by pushing forward with promotion of its Windows Phone operating system and patent portfolio, indicating that it is willing to stand closely with its partner handset manufacturers in any intellectual property dispute.

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