• Apple's "Thermonuclear" Patent War Shows Little Reward, Lots of Expense

    Steve Jobs’ IP “thermonuclear war” on Android smartphones hasn’t been nearly as successful (monetarily) as the late CEO probably would have liked. But, it sure has been expensive.

    Dan Lyons of Newsweek reported that Apple initial round of suits against cost Apple near $100 million. While Lyons wasn’t able to confirm his sources claims, if it is true, the amount of money Apple spent on a single set of claims is staggering. The number of suits Apple has levied so far against Motorola, Samsung, and others would likely increase the $100 million figure many times over.

    All of this would be worth it if Apple was able secure injunctions and eliminate competitors from the marketplace, but the rulings that have gone in Apple’s favor have been at their worst minor inconveniences for the companies Apple is assailing. In the case against HTC Apple originally included 84 claims, but by the time a judge saw the case the number of claims numbered only four. The result? A verifiable nothing for Apple. One claim involved a patent that Apple did not have a rightful claim two, another two HTC did not infringe upon even though Apple had the patents because Apple’s products did not actively use the patents themselves. The ITC will only rule in favor of a requested injunction if both parties are actively using the patent in question.

    Of course these decisions are accompanied by another suit against HTC due to be heard in 2013 and another that is pending an ITC decision. All of these claims are currently filed in U.S. district courts, but are on hold until the ITC decisions. HTC themselves have a number of claims filed against Apple as well. It appears that “thermonuclear war” in the world of IP patent infringement amounts to a monumental waste of cash for all those involved. It’s like a giant angry mob where price of admission is a lack of common sense and hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Apple and other tech giants are finding out that ITC, U.S. courts and other counties court systems don’t want to open the Pandora’s gate that is software-based IP infringement. The problem with something modular and adaptable as code and new IP, there will always be a relatively painless and quick solution to avoid claims. The only patent cases that have any hope of standing up are the design-based suits Apple has levied against Samsung.

    And even then Apple’s hundreds of millions of dollars bought a two-week injunction against the Galaxy Tab in Australia and a redesigned Galaxy Tab in a few other European countries. Jobs' “thermonuclear war” has proven to be the Zombie Apocalypse equivalent of college kids walking around campus with Nerf guns and colored bandannas.

    Still, information and ideas are king in the current technological revolution and it seems logical that companies would want to protect their innovations and ideas. But, proving ownership and violation of these ideas is a more difficult task than Apple and others likely assumed. But, the amount of money it takes to enter these battles is daunting, and it is likely creating classes of IP haves and have-nots. Apple and others are successfully telling companies without hoards of cash "don't enter this fight" by implementing a price of admission measured in legal expenses.

    And Apple has the biggest cash hoard. Even if the monetary gain isn't substantial, the spreading of IP fear and ability to protect their own IP might be far outweigh the expenses in the new dangerous world of IP rights.

    Source: Dan Lyons
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