Apple said HTC has infringed on 20 of its patents covering aspects of the iPhone's user interface and hardware.
"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement. "We've decided to do something about it."
Several of the patents relate to technology behind touch screens, including one that lets a device's screen detect more than one finger touch at a time, allowing someone to zoom in or out by spreading their fingers apart or pinching them together, for instance. Another patent refers to using sensors on a device to gather information about a user's activity or surroundings and letting the device react by, for example, lighting up.
So what does this mean for you, the consumer? Nothing, yet. But if Apple is successful and these patents related to things like multi-touch, we could see the Nexus One pulled from the shelves but patent lawsuits can often take years to decide and settlements sometimes occur before then.
We could still see future phones not coming with multi-touch screens, which would be a big blow to innovation and features on smartphones made by everyone but Apple.
Apple has its own history of riding the coattails of innovation. The company launched its first computer largely based on the research of Xerox's subsidiary PARC. The Palo Alto-based company developed the first graphical user interface and ubiquitous computing, which it allowed Apple to use for its first Macintosh computer in return for stock options.
Apple sued Microsoft in the late 80s for allegedly violating its copyright on its GUI. Xerox sued Apple in turn for trying to collect on its own creation. But the court threw out the complaint because Xerox's statute of limitations had run out.