New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

Apple Asks Supreme Court to Curb Patent Abuse Amid New $2 Billion Patent Lawsuit

Apple is joining Google and 13 other companies in a combined effort to curb frivolous lawsuits from patent holding companies, reports Bloomberg. Speaking to the Supreme Court justices, Apple said it has been sued 92 times by patent companies in the last two years. It currently has 228 unresolved patent claims and employs two lawyers who are dedicated to responding to royalty demands.
Google, joined by 13 other companies, told the justices that patent-assertion entities have an unfair advantage because they don’t make products of their own, leaving them effectively immune from countersuits.
Apple and the other technology companies are asking the Supreme Court to make it easier for companies to collect attorney's fees when patent holding companies lose infringement lawsuits. This allocation of fees, they argue, would cut down on the number of frivolous suits.

Just as Apple moves to seek judicial assistance in addressing patent abuse in the U.S., German patent holding firm IPCom has filed two patent infringement lawsuits in the German court system that accuse Apple of infringing on cellular technology it owns (via FOSS Patents). Both the European and German patents describe methods of managing priority emergency access when wireless networks are overloaded. Apple could pay more than $2 billion in damages if it loses these legal battles.

The patent asserted in case no. 2 O 53/12, in which, inter alia, a partial claim of damages amounting to 1.57 billion euros ($2.12 billion), plus prejudgment interest, has been brought, is EP1841268. This patent has recently (on January 22, 2014) been the subject of a validity decision by the European Patent Office, in the first instance.

In case no. 2 O 95/13, in which no quantified damages claims but requests for an accounting and for declaratory judgment of liability for damages have been brought so far, the patent-in-suit is DE19910239, a German patent.
IPCom obtained both patents from German automotive parts company Robert Bosch GmbH. Apple, Nokia, HTC and others asked the European Patent Office to invalidate the European patent, but the EPO denied this request.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

61 months ago
In related news: Apple patents mitosis. All organisms to pay licensing fees.

Rating: 31 Votes
61 months ago
Live by the sword...........
Rating: 15 Votes
61 months ago
Any company that sues over a 'rounded corner' patent doesn't deserve the right to call any other company a patent troll.
Rating: 15 Votes
61 months ago

Apple is joining Google and 13 other companies in a combined effort to curb frivolous lawsuits from patent holding companies, ...

Talk about hypocrites!

Apple and its pals just took the $4.5B of patents they bought from Nortel, and gave them to a patent holding company that they created explicitly to troll other companies.

That company does not use the patents themselves, and consists only of a small group of engineers who do nothing but comb through other companies' tech to see if they can sue them with some of the transferred patents.
Rating: 12 Votes
61 months ago
I think patents should be use 'em or lose 'em.

If you have a patent and don't want to manufacture the product, sell it to someone who will. If you hold onto patents and don't make anything using those patents, after some time you lose your ability to defend it.

That would solve 99% of the patent troll problem.
Rating: 10 Votes
61 months ago

As used here, the term "frivolous lawsuits" means lawsuits that the defendants find annoying or irksome. The real meaning of the term is without value or merit. If a patent infringement suit is successful (and many are), this means (by definition) that it wasn't frivolous at all. These companies aren't worried about truly frivolous lawsuits. They are concerned about the ones that have merit under the laws.

Words matter.

This is the danger. If you are a little guy that legitimately invents and patents something, and big bad Apple or whoever comes in and steals it because they figure you are too small to fight, you are now a frivolous lawsuit. That is wrong. This is strengthening the bad patent system instead of fixing it.
Rating: 9 Votes
61 months ago
Patents should be non-transferable.
Rating: 6 Votes
61 months ago

I assume you place Google in the "hypocrites" camp as well, since they are also involved in this new effort despite having acquired Motorola, stripped out all the viable patents they could, and dumped the carcass to the Chinese?

That's not even close being the same situation. Not even a tiny bit.

To be equivalent to the Rockstar troll, Lenovo would have to stop making devices, and turn into a shell company that solely devotes itself to figuring out ways to sue others using the Motorola patents they bought.
Rating: 6 Votes
61 months ago

Anyone who doesn't know what a design patent is shouldn't post here about patents.

If knowing what you're talking about was a prerequisite for posting here the forum would be closed. :D
Rating: 6 Votes
61 months ago
The thing is, there actually is a need for Non Practicing Entities.

Consider a home inventor who comes up with a new mouse trap, but has no funds to create a company to build it. (Or perhaps she's too busy inventing other things, or too sick to go into business. All sorts of possibilities.)

That inventor's best bet might be to sell her patent to someone who CAN make use of it.

Now, offering it to a major mousetrap company might be a bad idea, because they might want to just bury it in favor of their own design. Or perhaps they'll challenge her patent in court, and she cannot afford to fight it.

This is where patent holding companies are useful. She could sell/license her patent to them, and they can find others to license the patent to. They can also afford fight the legal challenges.


I think the main problem we see, is not so much NPEs, but the fact that many lawsuits involve SOFTWARE PATENTS.

Software patents simply should not exist, and do not exist in many countries.

Anyone who programs knows that there's 1) no way to stop and check every method to see if someone else has done it, and 2) plenty of ways for people to come up with the same ideas.

Almost every software patent lawsuit has nothing to do with outright copying, but instead is simply because someone derived the same method independently, but did not file for it.

Software patents quite simply favor big companies who can afford to submit lots of them, and some over and over again until the USPTO gives up and grants them.
Rating: 5 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]