In today's smartphone industry, you need as many lawyers as you employ engineers. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) just filed a countersuit against Motorola (NYSE: MOT) that aims to protect what is arguably among the most important technology rights Apple owns: Two suits specifically mention Apple's multitouch patents, which the company claims are infringed by nine devices sold by Motorola.

First reported by Patently Apple, Apple claims that Motorola infringes on six different patents. The suit, which was filed in the Wisconsin Western District Court, asks for a judgment that will prevent further infringement and seeks triple damages, royalties, and reimbursement of legal costs.

The phones affected would be the Droid, Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq, Cliq XT, BackFlip, Devour A555, Devour i1, and Charm.

The sheer quantity of lawsuits that are shot back and forth especially between Apple and Android phone makers appears almost silly. However, they may have far-reaching implications on the future of the losing end. In fact, we are surprised how long Apple waited to claim multitouch rights in a court of law. Anyone who used the first-generation iPhone knows that the user model of today's smartphones is very similar, if not identical. It will be interesting to see whether Apple can defend its patents and persuade a judge to confirm an infringement of one or more patents.

The current claims are likely to be fought over for several years, given the massive revenue stream that current smartphones are delivering. It is critical for Apple to prevail, as its iPhone business is already contributing 39%, the iPad 8%, and the iPod touch somewhere in the range of 3% TO 8% to the company's total revenue, according to Apple's most recent 10-K filing. Multitouch is a key technology in products that are responsible for more than 50% of Apple's revenue -- more than $30 billion over the past 12 months.

It is unlikely that the company will roll over and just let this one go.

According to IDC, Apple has just become the world's fourth largest cell-phone company, with 14.1 million units shipped in the third quarter of this year. Nokia (NYSE: NOK) still dominates the market with 110.4 million units, followed by Samsung, with 71.4 million, and LG, with 28.4 million. BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) is fifth, with 12.4 million phones shipped.

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