The technology industry isn’t something to be sniffed at, especially if the profits of Apple, Google and others are to go by in fact, the whole industry is a massive money spinner for not just the US but the Global Economy. If there’s one thing that you could say casts a shadow across this massive juggernaut then that’d be patents. The US Patent System is ridiculously broken, especially when it comes to software which is coincidentally where pretty much most innovation is happening these days. With the way that patents work in today’s industry you don’t even have to make the product to sue someone for it, there are a great many patent trolls out there that make most of their revenue from either settlements or royalties on patents they had bought from somebody else. What’s more worrying that these patent trolls at the moment is other players in the industry content to strangle innovation and harm consumers by doing everything they can to stop the sales of products, unsurprisingly, the biggest player in that sad little game is Apple.
Now, there are a fresh batch of patents up for sale that are coming from Eastman Kodak, the company that sold you Kodachrome film back in the day and also made a lot of those printer and camera combinations. The very same Kodak company that sadly filed for bankruptcy earlier on in the year, which is a sad thing to see as I have fond memories of old Kodaks and even used some of their film when I first got started in photography. Nostalgia aside, there are a whopping 1,100 patents up for sale from the dying company and it looks like there a number of people looking to get their hands on what’s sure to be a whole lot of patents related to photography. These bidders essentially fall into two camps, on one side there’s a consortium put together by Apple and Microsoft as well as a patent troll by the name of Intellectual Ventures. On the other side we have Google’s camp which consists of many of the Android OEMs – such as HTC, Samsung and LG – as well as the RPX Corporation. It’s as yet unclear who will be winning the bidding war for these patents but hopefully, Google’s camp out on top. This will give Google and the Android partners an added boost to their already rich patent portfolio. Google recently lost out on the Nortel patents at the hands of Apple and Microsoft for a cool $4.5billion. It’s been said that the Kodak patents are worth nowhere near as much but the value is as of yet unknown.
2012 has been a fairly active year for patent litigation, we’ve seen flagship models from HTC endure delayed launches thanks to Apple’s patents, Apple again, seem hell-bent on banning every Samsung Android device and even got a ban against the Galaxy Nexus and Motorola have recently felt the wraith of Microsoft and have had all devices banned in Germany. All of these delays or sales bans on devices is caused by patent infringement and the willingness for these companies to pay massive bonds in order for a ban to go through. Of course, however many millions that are required for a bond is nothing to the likes of Microsoft and Apple, making it ever so easy to limit consumers’ choices when it comes to mobile devices which, if anything, sounds very anti-American if you ask me.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple and Microsoft were to win this batch of patents as well however, Google would be very stupid if they weren’t to dig deep as it’s no secret that the OEMs of Android are under fire from both Apple and Microsoft. At this stage, Google and its partners could do with every last patent available especially considering they haven’t done much at all with the $5.5billion worth they acquired from Motorola Mobility.