Apple top target for patent trolls, sued 92 times in 3 years


Apple has taken much criticism over the years for its patent litigation efforts, for going after Samsung, Motorola and other companies for violating its intellectual property. But what many don’t know is that the iPad-maker defends itself against just as many lawsuits.

In fact, according to some recently filed FTC documents, Apple has been litigated against by PAEs (or Patent Assertion Entity, commonly known as a patent troll) 92 times during the past 3 years. And that’s just the number of cases that actually made it to a courtroom…

The Cupertino firm says that of those 92 cases, 57 are now closed. And out of that 57, Apple agreed to settle 51 times. ArsTechnica has the comments from the company’s legal team:

“Apple has rarely lost 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. This reality is the lifeblood of the patent assertion industry… Indeed, the opening line of many negotiations is some form of, “What we’re asking for is less than it will cost you to litigate this case to judgment.” It should come as no surprise, then, that despite its success in litigating the merits, for business purposes Apple has agreed to a settlement in 51 of the 57 closed cases.”

Apple also takes a shot at infamous patent troll Lodsys in the amicus brief. For those unfamiliar with Lodsys, it began going after small-time developers a few years ago with patent infringement claims. Apple tried to intervene on behalf of the devs, but was denied.

“One would be hard pressed to imagine a more troubling instantiation of this model than the one practiced by Lodsys Group, LLC… Lodsys burst onto the patent assertion scene in 2011 by firing off a spate of demand letters to app developers, many of whom are individuals with extremely little revenue, alleging that they were using software related to “in-app purchasing” that was covered by a handful of Lodsys-owned patents…

[A]gain, Lodsys scuttled away, settling with each of the developers for a pittance, thereby mooting Apple’s attempted intervention and avoiding a sure loss on the merits… Lodsys has no compunctions about this strategy. It will keep moving from developer to developer, leeching whatever royalties it can until a party with the resources to litigate scares it away.

The PatentFreedom study commissioned by Apple also shows that there are more than 250 active patent trolls in the nation. By the time of the study’s completion in late 2013 (the exact date isn’t clear from Apple’s limited quotes), PAEs had sued 2,873 defendants and were on track to break the 2011 record of 3,103 defendants being sued in a year.”

But apparently Apple is only the top patent troll target for the past 3 years. If you calculate litigation over the past 5 years, a PatentFreedom study shows that Google has been the top target with 192 troll lawsuits. Apple’s in second with 191 suits, and then Samsung at 151.

I don’t feel the need to put in a clever line here about how broken the patent system is—I think it’s pretty obvious looking at the above stats. But I think about what has been accomplished in tech in the past 20 years, and I wonder what could’ve been done without all of this mess.