Feeds

Apple tops target list for litigious patent trolls

Follow the money

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Apple has gained the dubious honor of being the top target for patent trolls, or to give them their polite title, Non-Practicing Entities (NPE).

Patent Freedom, a collection of companies that monitor the booming NPE industry, reports that in 2012 Cupertino topped the list for patent litigation with 44 cases brought and another 24 pending from the first half of this year.

The previous year's most-litigated company was Samsung, but the Korean manufacturer only picked up 37 lawsuits in 2012 to snatch second place. Verizon, LG, and Google tied for third with 25 legal challenges apiece.

Apple also tops the cumulative lawsuit count for the four years that Patent Freedom has been publishing its league table, with a total of 171 actions since 2009; HP is second at 137, ahead of the 134 claims Samsung has had to deal with. The data comes from the monitoring of 710 NPEs, which have filed in excess of 30,000 legal cases over the years.

"NPEs continue to target many large and high-profile companies quite relentlessly," Patent Freedom said in a statement. "There are clear indications that NPEs in recent years increasingly seek to enforce their patents against companies of all sizes and in many industries."

According to the group, the technology industry has borne the brunt of the trollish attacks, but in 2012 other industries made 50 per cent of the total number of patent lawsuits for the first time, and it's expected that the tech industry will be a minority of the targets in the years to come.

What these latest figures don't show is the increasing number of legal attacks against smaller firms, nor the number of companies that settle dubious claims because the cost of fighting them greatly outweighs any fee they might have to pay.

Last year a Boston University study found that patent trolls made $29bn in 2011 from legal challenges to both large and small companies, and predicted the situation would get worse as that money was fed into fueling other litigation. Some estimates now put the total at over $30bn last year.

In June the FTC promised an investigation into the practice of patent trolling after President Obama issued largely toothless Executive Orders on the subject. Several attempts at legal curbs are currently ambling through Congress, including the SHIELD Act, which would make NPEs pay for full litigation costs if a lawsuit fails.

But all that depends on Congress getting its act together, which seems unlikely any time soon. In the meantime, patent lawsuits look set to rise in the near future. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.