patent_troll

Apple, along with Silicon Valley technology giants Google, Yahoo, Intel, Cisco and Facebook, is going after patent trolls – that is, companies whose only “products” are patents bought solely as a litigation weapon against others who actually use them in their own products.

Apple and others are now asking the United States Supreme Court to allow stiffer penalties for patent trolls who bring frivolous lawsuits, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Apple has a backlog of over 200 pending patent cases, most of them frivolous claims, and in every one of such lawsuits the company has been forced to bear its legal fees…

Bloomberg writes that a total of fourteen Silicon Valley companies told the justices that patent trolls have an unfair advantage because “they don’t make products of their own”, leaving them effectively immune from countersuits.

The least the Supreme Court could do is permit technology companies to collect attorneys’ fees from patent-holders who lose infringement suits. The justices are said to consider the rules that govern fee awards in patent litigation later this month.

Patent trolls targeted Apple and Google more than 190 times each in the past five years. In 2012 alone, more than an astounding 100,000 companies were sued by patent-assertion entities, as they’re calling patent trolls these days.

“Apple has rarely lost on the merits,” the company said in court papers. “But victory figures as small consolation because in every one of these cases, Apple has been forced to bear its legal fees.”

Apple told the justices that the company faces 228 unresolved patent claims and employs two attorneys just to respond to letters that demand royalties. The iPad maker, based in Cupertino, California, says it has been sued 92 times by patent-assertion entities in the last three years, settling 51 cases, with most of the rest pending.

Another factoid: nearly one-fifth of all patent lawsuits from 2007 to 2011 were filed by trolling firms. While not all of these claims were frivolous, the vast majority indeed were.

Case in point: a German patent troll is throwing a $2+ billion claim against Apple over the use of a standards-essential wireless patent covering an emergency wireless service technology that’s required by law.

The iPhone maker says that for every case that reaches court it gets “dozens of letters demanding royalties”.

I’m interested to hear how you’d reform the patent system to prevent abuse.