You can hardly be held accountable--in a court of law, anyway--if you've lost track of the various pieces of pending litigation involving Apple and intellectual property. Fortunately, our crack legal team* here at Under the Gavel lives to keep you updated on the ins-and-outs of the justice system. (I'm serious. If they don't keep you updated, kaput.)

As dedicated watchers of legal affairs, you may recall that in October Motorola filed suit against Apple over patent infringement, followed shortly thereafter by a suit going in the other direction. While the U.S. International Trade Commission has already expressed its plan to investigate Motorola's suit against Cupertino, the agency said late last week that it would also be looking into Apple's claims as well.

In particular, the ITC will be examining smartphones, their operating systems, and other application software. Apple has requested a cease and desist order be issued to Motorola should the accusations pan out. But before that can happen, one of the body's six judges will schedule a hearing and decide whether or not there's a violation. As usual, the agency has set a goal of finishing its investigation within 45 days of its start. Of course, given that the ITC is already investigating Apple, it also seems possible that the two companies will come to some sort of agreement before heading to court.

But Motorola isn't the only company Apple is locking horns with; it's also engaged in a back-and-forth with HTC over its Android smartphones. As in the Motorola case, the ITC is investigating allegations of patent infringement leveled by each company against the other. The two firms are due to meet in the courtroom in February.

Apple iPhone

Finally, there's some news on the front of the case that--with apologies to Helen of Troy--launched a thousand lawsuits: Apple's dispute with Nokia. A hearing of Nokia's allegations against Apple began on Monday and is scheduled to continue until December 9.

According to Bloomberg, Cupertino has hired itself a bullpen of preeminent patent attorneys to serve as outside counsel for the case, including Robert Krupka of Kirkland & Ellis, William Lee of WilmerHale, and Matt Powers of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. If you don't happen to have their lawyer trading cards at hand, just know that they've represented heavy hitters like Broadcom, Merck and, yes, even Apple itself. The company has also hired an in-house IP specialist, Noreen Krall, who formerly served as Sun's chief IP counsel and as an intellectual property attorney at IBM.

Of course, that's only a brief overview of the latest developments in the tangled web of intellectual property lawsuits, which we previously summed up in this diagram. Rest assured that we will be working night and day** to bring you the latest news as it breaks.

* Does not imply actual legal expertise.

** As long as it doesn't conflict with our extensive television-watching commitments.