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

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.

patenttroll
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.

Top Rated Comments

gnasher729 Avatar
97 months ago

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.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FightTheFuture Avatar
97 months ago

Live by the sword, die by the sword

the biggest patent troller just got trolled. maybe now will apple learn something and stop this.

Are you under the impression that Apple is a non-practicing entity for some reason?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
keysofanxiety Avatar
97 months ago

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.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jav6454 Avatar
97 months ago
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.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jgassens Avatar
97 months ago

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".
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chago04 Avatar
97 months ago

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.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

lg wing

LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:38 am PST by
LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald). LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry: Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about...
google maps detailed street level e1611052089473

Google Maps Gains Enhanced Street-Level Detail in Four Major Cities

Tuesday January 19, 2021 2:34 am PST by
Google Maps has quietly been updated to include significantly more detailed street-level information in a handful of key cities around the world. Upon zooming in, Google's maps for Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York now benefit from shapes and widths that match the scale of roads more accurately. Meanwhile, enhanced graphical representations of sidewalks, crosswalks,...
2019 mac pro side and front

Tim Cook Gifted Donald Trump 'First' 2019 Mac Pro

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:45 pm PST by
Apple CEO Tim Cook gifted former United States President Donald Trump with the first 2019 Mac Pro that came off of the assembly line in Austin, Texas, according to a financial disclosure report that was released today (via The Verge). "Mac Pro Computer, the first created at the Flex Factory in Austin, Texas," reads the entry, which values the machine at $5,999, the base price for a Mac Pro....
airpods max sim ejector

AirPods Max Headband Removable With Just a SIM Ejector Tool, Hinting at Interchangeable Headbands

Tuesday January 19, 2021 8:25 am PST by
It is possible to remove the headband of AirPods Max with just a standard SIM card ejector tool, hinting at the possibility of interchanging headbands to achieve a different colorway. Image via Prelook In December, MacRumors revealed the large variety of AirPods Max ear cushion color combinations when it became clear that they were magnetically attatched and available for sale separately....
iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
iphone 12 vs iphone 12 mini

Apple Shifting Some Production From iPhone 12 mini to iPhone 12 Pro to Meet Demand

Wednesday January 20, 2021 8:12 am PST by
Apple has reportedly cut production of the iPhone 12 mini by two million units to create more manufacturing capacity for the iPhone 12 Pro, according to a new Morgan Stanley investment note seen by PED30. Apple is believed to have made the switch for the first quarter of 2021 in an effort to combat continuing lead times for the more popular iPhone 12 Pro. iPhone 12 Pro lead times remain ...
Apple VR Feature

Bloomberg: Apple's First AR/VR Headset 'Pricey, Niche Precursor' to More Ambitious AR Glasses and Could Launch Next Year

Thursday January 21, 2021 3:27 am PST by
Apple's first virtual reality headset will be a "pricey, niche precursor" to a more ambitious augmented reality product, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3-D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information over a view...
shot on iphone 12 apple

Apple Highlights Photos Shot by iPhone 12 Users: Portraits, Cityscapes, and More

Tuesday January 19, 2021 6:05 am PST by
Apple today shared a gallery of photos shot by customers using the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, with scenes including cityscapes, landscapes, portraits of people, and more at day and night. Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by "NKCHU" in China (top) and shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by Rohit Vohra in India (bottom) iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 models have a dual camera ...
Apple and Hyundai feature

Apple Car Production Again Linked to Kia Motor's US Plant in Georgia

Tuesday January 19, 2021 4:19 am PST by
Hyundai intends to transition the company's Apple Car involvement to its Kia brand as part of an internal arrangement that could see production move to the U.S., according to a new report today. On Sunday, Korea IT News reported that Apple and Hyundai are seeking a partnership agreement for the upcoming Apple Car by March, and that the electric vehicles could be made at a Georgia factory...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature

iPhone 13 Rumored to Feature Smaller Notch, Pro Model Cameras to Use Larger Image Sensor

Thursday January 21, 2021 1:38 am PST by
Apple's iPhone 13 series will feature a redesigned Face ID system that will allow for a smaller notch at the top of the screen, according to a new report today. The rumor comes via hit-and-miss Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes, whose supply chain sources also claim that the ultra wide-angle lens in Apple's next-generation iPhones is due for an upgrade. The next-generation iPhones'...