There are a number of patent licensing firms, sometimes known as patent investment groups or colloquially as “patent trolls,” that are in the business of making money from finding and suing companies that have infringed on patents. And we have seen how patents can make or break a business, at least temporarily, with Xiaomi’s push into India stopped by the patent lawsuit filed against it. Patents are a useful and valuable means of protecting intellectual property and in some cases maintaining a competitive advantage, which in the case of the mobile market is especially cut throat. Against this, some patent lawsuits do very much look like deliberate attempts to extract money from a manufacturer, especially when only one manufacturer has been singled out by the patent troll.
Today’s story, however, is different. Here a patent licensing company, InterDigital, has lost an infringement fight against Nokia (now owned by Microsoft) and ZTE at a US appeals court. The original filing included Huawei, but the company decided to settle out of court earlier. The US Court of Appeals upheld an early decision by the International Trade Commission, which found that five patents in total were not infringed. Four of these patents are designed to reduce cell ‘phone power and the fifth was declared invalid because it is obvious and concerns transferring data over a network. InterDigital expressed their disappointment at the decision but would push on with other ligation schemes already underway.
It can be difficult to be impartial when it comes to patents. Improvements to technology that can be used to better devices, or the experiences for all customers, are often carefully or jealously guarded… but could be applied to the whole industry rather than kept locked up by a single manufacturer. Against this, a business will have invested time and money into developing these patents and it does not sit right that these technologies are shared across the whole industry without some sort of compensation. Stealing ideas is stealing. With a technology that can reduce power consumption, this is something that would be beneficial to the entire industry and ultimately to help us conserve natural resources, if we follow the logic through. Should this be given an exemption from the patent laws? If this happened, companies would not waste their own resources for the good of the industry… I don’t have the answer, but a closet industry has been built around suing businesses based on their patent infringement over the last few years. Have your say below in the comments and over on Google+!