Apple wants patent trolls to stop ‘gaming the system’

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Apple wants patent trolls to stop ‘gaming the system’
Apple and other multinationals are fed up with being sued by patent trolls.
Photo: Andrew Becraft/Flickr CC

Apple is among the companies which want to stop so-called patent trolls from stifling innovation with their claims.

A patent troll, for those unfamiliar with it, is a person or company that holds patent portfolios but does not actually make any products. Instead, they earn their money by licensing out the technology — or suing companies which use it unlawfully. And Apple and 34 other multinationals — including Microsoft and BMW — are none-too-happy about them.

In a letter to the European Commission, the group of 35 companies and four industry groups argue that patent trolls stifle innovation. They want new commissioner Thierry Breton to draw up rules to stop patent trolls “gaming the system”. Among other changes, they want judges not to issue blanket bans on products when only one patent is ruled to be infringed upon.

Patent trolls frequently choose Europe as the battle ground for patent suits. A European ban on a certain product can cost companies an enormous amount by pulling it from shelves. In the end, large companies are more likely to settle.

Apple recently won a court battle against an alleged patent troll called VirnetX. VirnetX and Apple have gone head-to-head multiple times over the years. Apple’s victory resulted in an appeals court throwing out a $503 million award Apple had previously been ordered to pay.

Patent trolls regularly set their sights on Apple. A report from several years ago claimed that a massive 9 out if 10 lawsuits filed against tech companies are from NPEs — or non-practicing enterprises. As the tech company with the biggest cash pile on-hand, Apple is a frequent target. From the sound of things, though, it’s not alone in its frustration.

Source: Financial Times