The relationship between the Apple brand and intellectual property is complex, to put it mildly. Throughout the years, Apple has both sued and been sued for violating other companies’ or individuals’ rights as patent holders. In the most highly publicized and recent such case, Apple won the patent lawsuit it filed against Samsung. We’ve written about that in our post containing 10 predictions about the future of Apple, which says the tech giant is only going to become more adamant about protecting their own intellectual property rights. Now, by the looks of it, we’re on the money with that prediction, given the fact that Apple has recently joined the ranks of 13 companies asking the U.S. Supreme Court to curb patent abuse. This latest installment in the saga of Apple patent policies, which also involves Google, among other companies, is unfurling against the backdrop of a $2 billion lawsuit.
Apple patent policies are obviously going to grow increasingly strict, as the company strives to maintain its edge on the tech and gadget market. Company representatives have addressed Supreme Court justices, bringing before the gripes about the many ‘frivolous’ law suits they’re facing. According to the brand’s spokespersons, within the last two years alone, Apple has been sued 92 times by various companies in the patent business. As of the time this article was written, Apple was dealing with 228 unresolved patent claims, all of them handled by two lawyers whose sole job description is to handle demands for royalties.
Apple, Google, and the rest of the companies involved in this high profile case, are arguing that companies dealing with patent assertion benefit from an unfair advantage. They literally don’t make anything, which renders them immune to infringement cases. As such, they can’t be sued back by companies which they themselves sue for patent infringement. To this end, the companies that have taken the case to the Supreme Court, are asking the institution to make it easier for them to get their lawyers’ fees back from those that sue for infringement and lose.
More patent gripes from around the world
The state of the legal system in the United States is the way it is, with companies that hold patents being allowed to sue for no particular reason, Apple patent policies claim. And we wonder what this situation is like around the world. Apparently, things aren’t that much different halfway around the globe, in Germany. IPCom, a Germany-based company that holds patents, has recently filed a legal case against Apple, claiming that the U.S. brand has infringed two of its cellular technology patents. The patents in question have to do with the management of emergency access, by priorities, in cases of wireless network overloads.
Should Apple lose this lawsuit, it will have to pay over $2 billion in damages to the German company. It’s also worth noting that IPCom has obtained the two patents in question from the local firm Robert Bosch GmbH, whose main object of activity is making automotive parts. It holds said patents both for Germany, as well as at European level. Now, at the time IPCom obtained the European patent, Apple joined several other companies (among which Nokia and HTC) in asking the European Patent Office to invalidate it. However, this request was denied by the European patent authority.
Will the joint effort by some of the biggest names in tech succeed? Will the U.S. Supreme Court grant the fifteen companies involved their demand? It remains to be seen – however, it’s important to note that, should this occur, Apple patent policies aren’t likely to become more relaxed.