True, but my question is, why not go after HTC et al sooner? There were iPhone knockoffs within months of its announcement that could have been sued. And why sue HTC, and not Google or Motorola or Palm?
Google, Motorola, and Palm all have large patent portfolios to defend themselves with. Motorola literally invented the cell phone. Palm has a ton of important patents from the Treo days. Google has been gearing up for fights with the likes of Microsoft and Amazon.
For example, Engadget ran an analysis on Palm vs. Apple a while ago. They found that both companies infringed heavily on each other's patents, for things from list scrolling to three-way calling. Starting that particular food-fight would probably end badly for both companies.
HTC is a much softer target. HTC is relatively new in the business, with a smaller patent portfolio. They're also a foreign corporation, which may give Apple some home advantage in the courtroom.
At its core, this is all about Google. Every single Google developer phone has been HTC, as well as the G1 and Nexus One. If Apple prevails, that would be a pretty big blow to Google just as Android is beginning to spread its wings.
Bait & switch. Apple wanted these technologies to be adopted and define what a modern SmartPhone is. Now that it's established it's very unlikely HTC or anyone else will ditch these technologies. Easier to just pay Apple some royalties. Even if they do design around Apple patents there are millions of these phones out there already to ensure a good settlement for Apple and it will put their competition at a disadvantage. This is of course assuming Apple wins.
HTC was probably a target due to their relationship with Google and strong support of Android. HTC relies on Android for the bulk of their handsets these days so they might be more likely to reach a deal with Apple. Moto only has a couple Android handsets and likely has their own patent war chest to fight back with. Palm isn't selling enough handsets to be a good target at this point. They'll probably fall into line if HTC loses. (or they'll be out of business)
"True, but my question is, why not go after HTC et al sooner?"
Nobody sues if they can avoid it. Lawsuits are extremely expensive, and companies will exhaust all other options first. The lawsuit means Apple demanded more than HTC was willing to pay, and decided they would fair better in court.
Also, "iPhone knockoffs" doesn't necessarily mean patent infringements. Without doing in-depth research into the specific claims infringed, you can't say for sure whether any infringement took place.
Patents and patent law are incredibly complicated. There is no simple answer to _why_.
While that may be logical, it may not be true in this instance. Apple has a track record of filing lawsuits it knows it almost certainly won't win. I don't think they're afraid of losing money on a lawsuit.
That's an example where they didn't win, but I know of no reason to think that they knew they certainly wouldn't. It was definitely not obvious at the time that copyright could not apply to interfaces as a whole, and Microsoft's prior consent to a licensing arrangement suggests that both parties had at one time considered it a real possibility.
I'm not saying Apple should have won or that that case isn't in some ways relevant--only that it wasn't certain that they would lose.