Dislike of software patents is no longer confined to wild-eyed Redditors and Mark Cuban. The Washington Post points us to two Nobel Prize-winning economists who have recently come out against the very idea of software patents and have said that their existence is actually inhibiting innovation more than helping. Economist Gary Becker, for one, acknowledges that some software developers will lose their incentive to create software if they aren’t guaranteed intellectual property protections. However, he thinks this is an acceptable price to pay if it means freeing other software developers from the burden of high legal expenses. More →
According to Fortune’s Apple 2.0 blog, The Wall Street Journal’s recent report suggesting that the smartphone patent wars have been a big bust for all involved misses the point. Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt writes that while much of the Journal’s argument makes sense, the paper fails to differentiate between standards-essential patents (SEPs) and non-essential patents, and therefore fails to distinguish between claims made by Apple from claims made by the likes of Samsung. More →
While just about everyone is sick and tired of the constant barrage of patent lawsuits among smartphone vendors, it seems that tech companies themselves keep plugging precious resources into suing one another despite having fairly little to show for it. Analysis by The Wall Street Journal has found that “courts have proven as likely to deliver plaintiffs a rebuke as a win, and the slow grinding of the justice system has sapped the impact of the occasional big victories” in patent lawsuits. More →
Apple (AAPL) has struck a new deal to license patents from Access, according to a document published on the patent holding firm’s website. The IP covered in the small deal includes patents originally filed by Palm, Bell Communications Research and Geoworks. As 9to5Mac points out, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once told then-Palm CEO Ed Colligan that the company’s patents were “not that great,” and that Apple had passed on an earlier opportunity to acquire them to protect the iPhone because they were basically worthless. To be fair though, the Apple-Access licensing deal is valued at 1 billion yen, or about $10 million USD, which is indeed practically nothing to a company with more than $140 billion in cash on hand.
While more patent suits may be the last thing the mobile industry needs, it seems that’s what it’s going to get no matter what. AllThingsD points us to a new study from analyst Chetan Sharma projecting that one-fourth of all patents issued in the United States this year will be mobile-related, up from just 5% in 2001. Sharma also finds that Samsung (005930) was the leader in mobile patents granted last year, which makes sense because the company has been working to boost its mobile patent portfolio to ward off more potential lawsuits from Apple (AAPL) such as the high-stakes patent suit that the company lost last summer. Sharma says that the surge in mobile patents is unsurprising since smartphones and tablets have quickly become “the growth engine of the knowledge economy,” which gives companies a lot more incentive to patent everything they can to both maximize their returns on R&D and to prevent potential suits from patent trolls.
You wouldn’t like Mark Cuban when he’s angry, patent trolls. In an interview with TechCrunch this week, the famed businessman and investor issued a sweeping broadside against the United States patent system by claiming that “dumbass patents are crushing small businesses.” Cuban has recently teamed up with the Electronic Frontier Foundation digital rights group to start a campaign to “eliminate stupid patents” that he says is trying to “get the message to politicians that patent trolls are costing taxpayers… and small businesses money that could otherwise be used for innovation and creating jobs.” Cuban says that he’d like to either end software patents or give them a much shorter shelf life, to end design patents all together, and to ”require that all patents be used in a business within five years or otherwise become public domain.” It’s tough to say whether any of Cuban’s recommendations will ever see the light of day, but it is nice to see yet another high-profile voice calling for reform of American intellectual property laws.
The United States Department of Justice is wondering what part of “standard essential patents” tech companies don’t understand. Per Reuters, the DOJ and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week put out a joint policy statement saying that companies should only be entitled to modest monetary compensation if others use their standard essential patents, and that they shouldn’t use those patents to seek outright sales bans of rivals’ products. The agencies’ reassertion of this principle is notable because Google (GOOG) last week agreed to stop using the standard essential patents acquired from Motorola in offensive patent lawsuits against competitors. Standard essential patents, for those who don’t know, cover key technologies that entire industries need to use in order to operate. Typically owners of these patents must agree to license them in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory fashion.
Are there any technology companies Samsung (005930) isn’t fighting in court right now? LG Display (LPL), of which Android vendor LG Electronics (066570) owns a majority stake, confirmed on Friday that it has filed an injunction seeking to ban Galaxy Note 10.1 sales in South Korea. The panel maker claims the tablet infringes three of its patents relating to its display technologies and it is looking to ban sales of the device as a result. LG Display is also seeking damages of nearly $1 billion from Samsung affiliate Samsung Display if the Galaxy Note 10.1 remains on the market. More →
Samsung (005930) could face a $15 billion fine in Europe alone for using “standard-essential” patents in its attempts to ban devices like the iPhone in its ongoing patent battle with Apple (AAPL). The Guardian reports that the European commission could impose a massive fine of up to 10% of Samsung’s global turnover following its investigation into Samsung’s use of standard-essential patents in complaints filed against Apple in Europe. Samsung’s revenue totaled $148.9 billion in 2011, so fines in Europe alone could reach $14.8 billion. More →
Research In Motion (RIMM) and Nokia (NOK) announced last week that the companies had settled their differences and agreed to end all unresolved patent disputes. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it was believed that RIM would pay a hefty up-front free in addition to ongoing royalty payments in order to license various Nokia patents covering mobile WLAN technologies and more. In a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission uncovered by The Guardian, however, some light has been shed on those terms. More →
Kodak announced on Wednesday it has successfully sold its digital imaging patents to “12 intellectual property licensees organized by Intellectual Ventures and RPX Corporation” for $525 million. As Engadget notes, Intellectual Ventures is working on behalf of Apple (AAPL) and RPX Corporation is representing Google (GOOG). The new deal is “one of Kodak’s key restructuring objectives” that will see it emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and end its battle with Apple over patent disputes. Kodak’s press release follows below.
According to research from a law professor at Santa Clara University, individuals and companies that do not create technology themselves but instead acquire patents to target other companies were behind a majority of the patent infringement lawsuits in the United States in 2012 for the first time ever, Reuters reported. These companies, more commonly known as patent trolls, have accounted for 61% of all patent lawsuits filed through December 1st, compared to 45% in 2011 and 23% in 2007. More →
Steve Jobs’ impact on Apple (AAPL) is still being felt more than a year after his passing. According to patents discovered by AppleInsider, Apple now owns the patent to the iPhone 4 and its external antenna design, iPad 2, Smart Cover, iPhone 4/4S Bumper, L-shaped MagSafe found on previous generation MacBooks. The patents are accredited to the late Jobs and Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of Industrial Design. As designers and artists, as Jobs liked to be called, both men were responsible for designing Apple’s most iconic products since Jobs returned to Apple in 1996.