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Study: mobile patent lawsuits up 25% a year since 2006

updated 03:30 pm EDT, Sat September 10, 2011

Lex Machina shows patent lawsuits spiking

Patent lawsuit analyst group Lex Machina has published a study showing a huge spike in patent lawsuits, especially in mobile, in the past few years. Since 2006, the number of mobile-focused patent lawsuits filed has gone up 25 percent every year. As of August this year, eight percent, or 24, of the 294 patent lawsuits filed in the month related to smartphones or similar technology.

Apple is often at the heart of the patent disputes, although it's not necessarily the attacker. While targeting HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and other Android makers, it has more foten been one of the most popular targets of non-practicing entities, better known as patent trolls. The companies, which exist solely to profit off of licenses and lawsuits, have put Apple into 97 active cases that include a recent Wi-LAN case and one from Software Restore Solutions. Some of these firms are taking advantage of backlogs and low investigative resources at the US Patent and Trademark Office to use broadly worded patents.

Motorola is a frequent target and occasional attacker at 38 open patents.

Attempts have been made to reform the patent system with a soon to pass US bill that could give more resources and improve the verification process. The effectiveness of the bill has been put into question, though, and it might not improve relations between major companies. Apple and Microsoft have been mutually accused of abusing their patent libraries solely to slow down or stop competing products, and Google felt compelled to buyMotorola in a defensive measure.

Many expect the escalating patent disputes only to end either if the US patent system undergoes even more sweeping reform or if major competitors are shaken out of the market. Apple and Microsoft don't necessarily want to eliminate companies like Motorola entirely but often want to make it either too expensive to use Android or to extract a 'penalty' that can be rolled into competitive mobile gear. [via TechCrunch]

by MacNN Staff



  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    And with Steve away for good...

    Apple will resort to patent trolling more and more, untilany left over inventiveness and creativity is drained by it's ever growing law department...

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Confirms an instinct

    These numbers confirm my gut-level instinct that the industry is increasing driven by lawyers rather than innovation. I'd rather these companies out-invented their opponents rather than out-sued them.

    Real patent reform won't come as long as patent law is in the hands of patent lawyers. First to register rather than first to create merely benefits giant companies who can afford to have a patent department that files for every idea bubbles up, however vague or obvious. It certainly won't encourage innovation. Europe's long had it and how often does Europe come up with something new?

    As the NY Times recently pointed out, there's a lot of truth in what Sarah Palin has been saying since she ran for governor of Alaska. Both parties, she warns, compete to see who can do the most to support giant corporations and financial interests that create few, if any jobs. Hence our recession.

    Both favor finance and banking, hence the huge bailouts. The Democrats favor affluent greens, who want the price of everything we buy to rise. That explains the half-billion in federal loan guarantees to Solyndra, which just filed for bankruptcy. The Republicans favor Palin's chief foe in Alaska, big oil, which does not really mind if our oil comes from offshore as long as they profit. Increasing our domestic supply will lower prices and threaten those profits.

    It's a little know fact that Eisenhower's final speech, the one that famously denounced our 'military-industrial complex,' originally denounced a 'military-industrial-congressional complex.' Congress, Ike believed, were as much responsible for out-of-control spending and the military and its industrial allies. Advisors convinced him that criticizing Congress wasn't good politics, hence the revised speech.

    With the Cold War over, the military doesn't have the influence it once had and our manufacturing industry isn't what it used to be outside the South. What we now have to deal with might be called a 'financial-industrial complex.' Many giant companies maintain relatively few jobs in the country and, in the case of Apple, they have few well-paying jobs outside Cupertino. Instead, their assets are intellectual and their money goes where the labor is cheapest and the work protection laws are the weakest. That explains our unemployment.

    And we're already seeing the financial side of that 'financial-congressional complex' lobbying to be able to bring their overseas profits in tax-free. Other countries expect their businesses to employ their citizens and bring money into the country. Our 'financial-industrial complex could care less about that. And they are doing quite well while we are hurting.

    As Forbes magazine has reported, six of "the country's [twenty-five] wealthiest households are tightly concentrated in counties around the nation's capital." Another "six of the wealthiest counties in the country... are all part of the New York metropolitan area."

    That's almost half the twenty-five wealthiest counties in the entire country concentrated around just two cities: Washington, D.C. (congressional/federal) and New York (financial). That's what is meant by our the 'financial-industrial complex."

    A lot will depend on what happens in next year's elections. If we opt for business as usual in politics, there'll be very few healthy business in the country in a few decades.

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