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Apple, others ask Supreme Court for measures against patent abuse

updated 01:07 pm EST, Wed February 5, 2014

Companies want easier time recouping legal fees

A collection of companies -- including Apple, Google, Yahoo, Intel, Cisco, and Facebook -- are asking the US Supreme Court for measures to help deter frivolous patent lawsuits, Bloomberg reports. In particular, the companies are seeking to change the language used to determine when a defendant can claim coverage of legal fees from a plaintiff. The current standard allows coverage only if a suit is ruled "objectively baseless" and filed in bad faith.

Under the looser proposed terms, defendants would be able to claim fees if a plaintiff "unreasonably pursues a case having an objectively low likelihood of success." The risk of having to cover legal costs could prevent lawsuits by patent trolls simply wanting to use the courts as a source of income; research firm PatentFreedom says that Apple and Google alone have been sued over 190 times in the past five years by such "patent-assertion entities." Apple states that it has over 200 intellectual property claims that are still pending, and that it has two lawyers on staff whose only job is responding to royalty claims.

A potential risk, however, is deterring difficult yet still legitimate patent cases. The Supreme Court is due to consider the matter in two cases scheduled to be heard during the next few weeks.

by MacNN Staff



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