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]