Remember the patent trolls? We don't hear much about them anymore, but patent trolls have made big news in the past decade. Apple has always been a big target, and apparently has seen the most suits against it since 2009.
According to PatentFreedom, Apple is a favorite target of patent trolls -- a slang term for a person or company filing patent suits against big companies hoping for a big pay off. Specifically, Apple has weathered 171 lawsuits from patent trolls since 2009.
We asked Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, for his take on the news. He told us he's not surprised -- patent trolls go where the money is.
"With Apple at the top of the pile, that makes the company a natural target for patent trolls. Because Apple is just so visible, and very apparently wealthy, they get hit more than other companies," Enderle said. "But Apple has a strong litigation team that is up for the challenge."
Tech Companies Biggest Targets
Of course, Apple is not the only high-profile target -- and 22 of the top 25 most-sued companies are in the tech sector. HP is the second most-sued company with 137 suits. Samsung is third with 133. Next are AT&T with 127, Dell with 122, Sony with 110, HTC with 106, and Verizon with 105.
Other names on the list include Google, Amazon.com, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Toshiba, Sprint Nextel, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Panasonic, Deutsche Telecom, Cisco, Asus, Huawei, Motorola Solutions, and Acer. With 50 lawsuits against it, IBM comes in at 27th on the list, perhaps because it's patent portfolio is so huge that it's hard to battle.
"Patent trolls are still very active. We don't hear as much about them because we just got tired of writing about it," Enderle said. "So it's not that the activity stopped, it just became old news. It's no longer as interesting."
Morphing Troll Strategies
Despite fewer media headlines, patent trolls, also known as Patent Assertation Entities (PAE), are indeed still raging. Patent trolls accounted for 62 percent of all patent litigation in 2012, according to RPX Corporation. That's 2,921 of 4,701 suits. Put another way, patent troll defendants made up 59 percent of all patent litigation defendants in 2012.
"While the share of PAE defendants has not gone down significantly, I do believe, based on unreported analyses that I have performed, that trolls have changed their litigation tactics in at least one respect -- they are less likely, because of the misjoinder rules, to name small defendants in lawsuits where they cannot be joined with other parties," said Colleen Chien, assistant professor of Santa Clara University Law School.
"In this way, the joinder rules can be said to be having their intended impact of making life harder for trolls. The small companies that actually are sued, however, are arguably worse off because they have fewer joint defense options. And even if they are not sued, many small defendants are receiving letters," she added.
Image credit: iStock/Artist's concept.
Posted: 2013-08-31 @ 5:08pm PT
Wait a minute. I thought patent trolls were stifling innovation with their lawsuits. Maybe there will be no more iPhones or iPhone copycats?