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Apple Number One Target for Patent Trolls With 171 Cases in Five Years

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Apple is the number one target for "patent trolls", with 171 cases total in the last five years, according to PatentFreedom (via Fortune). This puts the company ahead of Hewlett Packard, currently in second place with 137 cases, and Samsung, with 133. Dell, Sony, HTC, and LG all made the top 10 with a combined 1,218 cases between them.

A patent troll, or "non-practicing entity" (NPE) is defined by research firm PatentFreedom as "any entity that earns or plans to earn the majority of its revenue from the licensing or enforcement of its patents".

Michael Brody, an intellectual property specialist at Winston & Strawn, told an audience at Stanford University earlier this week that a patent, "is nothing more or less than a license to sue someone" and claimed that in 2012, more than 4,200 separate companies or individuals were sued by NPEs, with the average licensing cost for cases settled out of court being around $29.75 million.

Since 2004 onwards, the number of lawsuits involving NPEs has risen sharply and PatentFreedom has reported a 1300 percent increase in cases between 2004 and 2013. The site suggests that this may be due to a 100 percent increase in the number of patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) during the same period.

Over the years, Apple has faced litigation from a number of patent-holding companies like Lodsys, which targeted app developers over in-app purchases, and VirnetX, a company that was awarded $368.2 million over VPN connectivity in Facebook in 2012.

Apple faces a new lawsuit filed today by Remote Locator Systems, alleging that Apple's "Find My Friends" and "Find My iPhone" apps violate a patent held by the company.

Article Link: Apple Number One Target for Patent Trolls With 171 Cases in Five Years
 

jav6454

macrumors P6
Nov 14, 2007
17,001
1,869
1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
We need a reform in our patent system. It completely blows and allows leeches to mooch off company's efforts. Regardless if said company is Apple or not. Patent trolls stifle innovation everywhere.
 
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jgassens

macrumors member
Dec 2, 2009
32
20
"Patent Troll"

So, exactly how would research based companies like Alcatel-Lucent, which do their own research and sell that IP, make money? Some companies (and universities!) butter their bread with IP they produce themselves and without producing much else.

For that matter, what about smaller startup companies that are financed based on their IP. Blanket reform of patents would kill investment in technology spinoffs since the first thing investors ask is "Is it patented"? So startups and spin offs, which likely will produce more IP on their way to producing a product, are in a position of defending their IP against anyone who even remotely attempts to use it... Until they have a product (if they ever do) their whole worth is in IP... NOTHING ELSE!

So, it might be fun to beat up on "big companies that troll patents" but maybe big companies should actually pay attention to their patent searches and stop trying to screw over everyone else.
 
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chago04

macrumors newbie
Oct 14, 2011
28
0
So, exactly how would research based companies like Alcatel-Lucent, which do their own research and sell that IP, make money? Some companies (and universities!) butter their bread with IP and without producing much else.

They could license the patent. Patent trolls are people who buy patents from those companies then sue other companies. No one would really have a problem with the company that developed the patent suing, unless it is a bogus patent.
 
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jgassens

macrumors member
Dec 2, 2009
32
20
They could license the patent. Patent trolls are people who buy patents from those companies then sue other companies. No one would really have a problem with the company that developed the patent suing, unless it is a bogus patent.

Well, IP companies make their money by licensing their patent, so it is in their best interest to do so. Large companies tend to flip them off and steal their IP under the assumption that if they try to sue, most likely their IP will be invalidated or they'll just be buried. Which is a safe bet, so smaller companies sell their IP to larger clearing houses, or at least sell the rights to distribute the IP to larger clearing houses, so they don't have to put up with these shenanigans.

On the other hand, if they don't want to license, because it is THEIR PROPERTY, and they plan to commercially exploit it differently, that's their right as an inventor.

----------

Does this make Kodak a patent troll now?

Yes. And apparently any other company that does research and produces IP as a product. As a matter of fact, if all you have is IP for sale, you're basically a Somali pirate trying to stifle the brilliance of HP in their endless pursuit to make another paper munching beige box. Apparently, according to the internet, you're not allowed to do that or you're a "troll".
 
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alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
5,688
170
They could license the patent. Patent trolls are people who buy patents from those companies then sue other companies. No one would really have a problem with the company that developed the patent suing, unless it is a bogus patent.


what's the difference who sues? most of the IP creator organizations don't want the risk of filing lawsuits and they don't want to hire lawyers to do it. they would rather sell their patents to someone who specializes in other parts of the business
 
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alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
5,688
170
We need a reform in our patent system. It completely blows and allows leeches to mooch off company's efforts. Regardless if said company is Apple or not. Patent trolls stifle innovation everywhere.

almost all of the big technical advances we enjoy were created in the 70's, 80's and 90's by people who are close to retirement now. most of the people complaining about having to pay are the 20 somethings who want to use this work without compensation
 
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gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
17,633
4,936
So, exactly how would research based companies like Alcatel-Lucent, which do their own research and sell that IP, make money? Some companies (and universities!) butter their bread with IP they produce themselves and without producing much else.

Here's the problem: It's absolutely fine for these companies to get paid for something that I want to do, and that I cannot figure out myself. If Apple had looked into the patent database 171 times for things they couldn't figure out themselves, copied what they found, and used it without paying, they would deserve to be sued.

But that's not what is happening. Companies get patents for things that are so obvious that normal software developers put these methods into their products without having copied anything, and without realising they are doing something that someone was awarded a patent for, and definitely without realising they are doing something that is supposedly so clever that it deserves a patent.

But finally, what argument do you have that these research companies should have the right to prevent me from inventing things myself? There is a good argument for copyright. If you do the hard work to write a book, or some music, or some software, then I shouldn't be allowed to _copy_ what you did. But it would be absurd to think that I shouldn't be allowed to write a book, or music, or software, just before you did so first. But that's what patent law says. Just because someone "invented" something, I'm not allowed to invent it. There's no reason why this would have to be so. Might be tough for some companies, but then the car was tough for makers of horse carriages.
 
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Woyzeck

macrumors 6502
Nov 2, 2012
419
421
Software patents are plain stupid. They limit innovation, favor big companies and in most cases they just describe obvious approaches.

I doubt that we had today's computers if the same legal framework were in place in the 70s.
 
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alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
5,688
170
Here's the problem: It's absolutely fine for these companies to get paid for something that I want to do, and that I cannot figure out myself. If Apple had looked into the patent database 171 times for things they couldn't figure out themselves, copied what they found, and used it without paying, they would deserve to be sued.

But that's not what is happening. Companies get patents for things that are so obvious that normal software developers put these methods into their products without having copied anything, and without realising they are doing something that someone was awarded a patent for, and definitely without realising they are doing something that is supposedly so clever that it deserves a patent.

But finally, what argument do you have that these research companies should have the right to prevent me from inventing things myself? There is a good argument for copyright. If you do the hard work to write a book, or some music, or some software, then I shouldn't be allowed to _copy_ what you did. But it would be absurd to think that I shouldn't be allowed to write a book, or music, or software, just before you did so first. But that's what patent law says. Just because someone "invented" something, I'm not allowed to invent it. There's no reason why this would have to be so. Might be tough for some companies, but then the car was tough for makers of horse carriages.


obvious now, a lot of these patents are from the 90's and earlier.
 
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gnasher729

macrumors P6
Nov 25, 2005
17,633
4,936
Does this make Kodak a patent troll now?

Well, they were an excellent company in the photography market. Unfortunately for them, their market disappeared and they didn't manage to enter the successor market (digital photography). That's tough. So unfortunately their best possibility to make money is patent trolling.

So yes, they are turning into patent trolls. Not by choice, but still patent trolls.


obvious now, a lot of these patents are from the 90's and earlier.

And why would anyone deserve money for things that are obvious now, even if they invented them 20 years ago?
 
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keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,534
25,271
Live by the sword, die by the sword

"We've patented the Hell out of this thing, and we intend to protect our intellectual property" -- to paraphrase Steve Jobs during his iPhone presentation.

2007: Ballmer laughed. "No physical keyboard!" he bellowed. Most people couldn't see the point in an iPhone; over-engineering a problem that doesn't exist, they said. "Apple to add a physical slidy-keyboard in the next iPhone", everybody hoped (yes, really, there was a huge amount of speculation about that).

RIM laughed, and kept their phones the way they had their phones. Phones running Android slowly took away keys and made them more touch-oriented -- but that took some time.

Then everybody suddenly claims Apple are patent trolls, because now companies argue 'there's no other way to do a phone'. 'There's no other way to do zooming', oh, 'Apple have patented a rectangle. Hurr durr hurr.'

I think you'd feel much differently about your intellectual property had you sunk millions into R&D, hardware, software, supply chain, agreements with carriers where your phone is your phone -- the lot. Apple put their balls on the line, and the rest reap the rewards.

And what happens? 6 years later, we're reading "live by the sword, die by the sword" comments. This is MacRumours FFS, it's meant to be a community of Apple enthusiasts, not a community of people scrambling to write their oh-so-witty comment first.
 
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alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
5,688
170
"We've patented the Hell out of this thing, and we intend to protect our intellectual property" -- to paraphrase Steve Jobs during his iPhone presentation.

2007: Ballmer laughed. "No physical keyboard!" he bellowed. Most people couldn't see the point in an iPhone; over-engineering a problem that doesn't exist, they said. "Apple to add a physical slidy-keyboard in the next iPhone", everybody hoped (yes, really, there was a huge amount of speculation about that).

RIM laughed, and kept their phones the way they had their phones. Phones running Android slowly took away keys and made them more touch-oriented -- but that took some time.

Then everybody suddenly claims Apple are patent trolls, because now companies argue 'there's no other way to do a phone'. 'There's no other way to do zooming', oh, 'Apple have patented a rectangle. Hurr durr hurr.'

I think you'd feel much differently about your intellectual property had you sunk millions into R&D, hardware, software, supply chain, agreements with carriers where your phone is your phone -- the lot. Apple put their balls on the line, and the rest reap the rewards.

And what happens? 6 years later, we're reading "live by the sword, die by the sword" comments. This is MacRumours FFS, it's meant to be a community of Apple enthusiasts, not a community of people scrambling to write their oh-so-witty comment first.

pinch and zoom predates the iphone by many years along with touch screens and lots of other tech in there.

the strength of the iphone was that it was the best mobile OS at the time of Qualcomm Brew and Openwave. even then lots of other companies had touch screen phones in their labs under development. not like apple created the touch screen
 
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vettefan8

macrumors newbie
Nov 9, 2009
1
0
VirnetX, a company that was awarded $368.2 million over VPN connectivity in Facebook in 2012.


VPN connectivity in Facebook? I think you meant Facetime. It's good to see that nobody proofreads articles anymore. Virnetx is made up of employees that worked for SAIC, and invented a way of easily communicating securely between two devices without the need to log in with usernames or passwords of any kind. They developed this technology for the CIA! This technology is the backbone of what makes "Facetime" and "imessage" so great. You can securely chat with your friend across the globe without ever logging in with any passwords or usernames. Your connection is established so that the conversation goes directly from your device to your friend's device and not through any sort of servers that are operated by apple or anybody else. There is no way for apple or the government to spy on your conversation through Facetime, even if they wanted to. This is a remarkable technology that was developed for the CIA. They then took their patents and left SAIC and decided to license out their technology for everybody to use, since it was such a great idea. Apple decided to steal the technology and use it to sell more apple products. Almost every Apple commercial that I have seen on TV lately has been for "Facetime". It is a great app and it works flawlessly, but there is a reason for that, and the people that invented the technology should be compensated for it in the form of a license.
 
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keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,534
25,271
pinch and zoom predates the iphone by many years

You're missing the point. Other phone manufacturers had other ways of zooming and stuff. Of course I'm not suggesting they shouldn't use pinch-and-zoom, I'm just saying nobody was complaining at the time.

And you're right that other companies had touch-screens in development. The biggest thing about the iPhone, arguably, was that it just pushed the 5-year pipeline to 'now'. That's all it was.

But to justify the patent arguments by saying others were working on them for release in 5 or 10 years time just isn't a solid argument, IMHO.
 
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FakeWozniak

macrumors 6502
Nov 8, 2007
428
27
Would love to see the "cash on hand" and "market cap" listed in that table. I bet the cash on hand is a direct correlation to the number of defensive lawsuits. Actually, maybe innovation is a better gauge, but there is no scientific way to measure that.
 
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alent1234

macrumors 603
Jun 19, 2009
5,688
170
You're missing the point. Other phone manufacturers had other ways of zooming and stuff. Of course I'm not suggesting they shouldn't use pinch-and-zoom, I'm just saying nobody was complaining at the time.

And is that really all you could pick up on from my comment?

RIM and MS may not have done anything but lots of other companies already had products in the pipeline that were like the iphone. they just needed a better OS and Google had that
 
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jgassens

macrumors member
Dec 2, 2009
32
20
No. Digital photography was invented at Kodak by Steve Sasson and they license that IP. They've changed their business strategy, since they didn't move into the manufacturing of digital cameras quickly enough. Most of the IP they license, they invented.

It is impossible to have this sort of conversation with someone that has never bothered to invent anything but believes that inventions are so easy that they should just be free or their inventors forced to allow other people use them.

Well, they were an excellent company in the photography market. Unfortunately for them, their market disappeared and they didn't manage to enter the successor market (digital photography). That's tough. So unfortunately their best possibility to make money is patent trolling.

So yes, they are turning into patent trolls. Not by choice, but still patent trolls.




And why would anyone deserve money for things that are obvious now, even if they invented them 20 years ago?
 
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