February 5, 2014
Patent trolls, be warned. Apple has teamed up with rival Google in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow stiffer penalties for those who bring frivolous lawsuits, according to Bloomberg. Since 2009, Apple and Google have each been sued more than 190 times by “patent-assertion entities,” companies that get most of their revenue from patent licensing and enforcement. As a result, Apple says that for every case that reaches court, it gets dozens of letters demanding royalties. This needs to stop, say both companies. In the U.S. Supreme Court they will jointly argue that these cases are frivolous, at best, and cost millions of dollars in legal fees. Charlene Morrow from Fenwick & West notes “Technology companies are seeing an onslaught of patent claims.” A favorable Supreme Court ruling “should make it less profitable to bring frivolous claims.” Not so fast says Robert Berman, chief executive officer of CopyTele Inc., a New York-based company that buys patents and has about three dozen suits pending. Berman says that companies such as his shouldn’t be penalized for guessing wrong. He says “If you look at which area of law has the most frivolous lawsuits, I’m not sure patent law is at the top of the list.” In court papers, Apple says it has “rarely lost (these cases) on the merits.” “But victory figures as small consolation because in every one of these cases, Apple has been forced to bear its legal fees.” The decision by Apple and Google to go to the U.S. Supreme Court together is an interesting one. I can appreciate that defending these claims cost the companies a lot of time and resources. However, they don't seem to have a problem putting in the resources when they are the ones doing the suing. The continuing saga that is Apple v. Samsung is an excellent example of this. Besides, aren't all lawsuits "frivolous" depending on which side of the table one is sitting? See also: Apple Files For New Trademark To Protect Its iPad Designs In China, Looks Like Samsung Will Be Copying Apple Again When They Release The Galaxy S5, and Samsung Accuses Apple Of Appealing To Racial Bias In The November Patent Trial.