Feeds

Apple tops target list for litigious patent trolls

Follow the money

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.