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Patent Wars

November 7, 2012

The Apple lawsuit complaining that the charges being levied by Google / Motorola for use of patents are ‘excessive’ has been dismissed.  Meanwhile, in Germany, Apple succeeded in a lawsuit related to Google / Motorola mobile devices which led to their withdrawal from the market. In a similar multi-national battle with Samsung, Apple achieved a much-publicized victory in the US courts, winning substantial damages (though now on appeal for more); but in the UK, a different suit by Apple against Samsung was rejected and Apple has been forced to issue a public notice withdrawing its claims of infringement.

The list goes on – and it becomes hard to see who really benefits from this battle, except law firms. Behind it, there appear to be two particular strands. One relates to patents that resulted from genuine research and development; another relates more to general product characteristics – the more nebulous question of specific design. For example, one suit related to the shape of the corners.

As suit and counter-suit develop, one has to wonder to what extent this conflict is simply part of a protracted negotiation, with each party trying to establish power. For example, will Google now compromise on its pricing in return for Apple backing down in Germany?

Another noteworthy aspect is that these high-profile law suits are predominantly between major US corporations (Samsung is clearly an exception). This is interesting, given the years of publicity we have had about the patent and copyright abuses that come from the East. It seems the real enemy – at least in these technology wars – remains in our own backyard.

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