Apple, Samsung and others demand patent trolling protection from EU judges

courtroom gavel

After asking the United States Supreme Court to approve of stiffer penalties for patent trolls who bring frivolous lawsuits against them, Apple and Samsung – along with seventeen other technology companies – have joined forces and issued a letter to the European Union asking for limits on injunctions in patent infringement cases.

As reported by Bloomberg, the companies are asking EU judges to curb patent trolls and introduce anti-trolling changes into Unified Patent Court and the upcoming European Unitary Patent system

A total of nineteen technology companies headed by fierce rivals Apple and Samsung have banded together to argue that the European Union should impose limits on entities that don’t produce actual products and instead buy patents for the sole purpose of asserting them against other firms in costly litigations.

Apple and Samsung are most concerned about patent trolls’ ability to win court injunctions when the validity of the underlying patent is in dispute.

The companies have repeatedly lobbied the EU over the issue as the 28-nation bloc implements plans to set up its first patent court, paving the way for a common patent system.

The companies are urging the committee of EU member states representatives to “incorporate guidance that advises judges on when to issue injunctions or halt the proceedings while a patent’s validity is at issue”, as per the report.

Huawei, China’s biggest smartphone maker, along with the search giant Google, co-signed the letter.

One survey has estimated that intellectual property disputes, primarily over patents, made up a whopping eighteen percent of cross-border litigation between companies.

That’s nearly one in five cases – and that number is expected to rise. U.S., U.K., Germany, France and China lead the charge in combating cross-border patent trolling.

One lawyer summed it up nicely for Bloomberg:

You never know what one judge will do, but if you’re in five countries, the chances that a judge will go favorably to you increases. It’s more a business tool for monetization when it used to be used to fend off a competitor. That has increased the litigation across the world.

A good example of patent trolling involves Germany-based IPCom’s case against Apple.

That company is asking the court to slam Apple with a $2 billion fine over its use of a standards-essential wireless patent pertaining to an emergency service standard. What makes IPCom’s case frivolous is the fact that the use of this technology is required by law and mandated by the UMTS and LTE wireless standards around the world.

Over in the United States, companies with patents as their sole products are having a much harder time blocking product sales based on a finding of infringement. This has become evident in the long-standing Apple-Samsung legal dispute as neither party was able to win a decisive import ban on the other’s products.

For instance, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a last-minute veto of an import ban on the iPhone 4s after the ITC last June ruled in Samsung’s favor.

However, Obama at the same time let stand a ban on Samsung product imports, prompting the Galaxy maker to question the U.S. patent system, indirectly accusing the U.S. government of bias toward domestic firms.