If some tech readers tire of constantly seeing Apple, Inc.’s (AAPL) name in the news regarding patent lawsuits, understand that those stories are hardly coincidence or the product of a newsperson’s overactive imagination. Apple simply is in a swirling, whirling, ever-growing maelstrom of lawsuits, some filed by it and others filed against it.
I. Some of Them Want to Abuse You…
According to consulting firm Kanzatec IP Group, 60 percent of active lawsuits in the mobile industry involve Apple.
These lawsuits generally fall into two categories. The first category is suits filed against Apple by smaller intellectual property holders, such as Elan Microelectronics Inc. (TPE:2458) who successfully sued Apple for “stealing” its multi-touch technology.
As the world’s most profitable company Apple is a juicy target for small IP holders. And Apple’s large all-inclusive hardware-software-sales ecosystem offers many levels to hunt for infringements.
A graphic by Kanzatec depicting who is suing who. [Image Source: Kanzatec]
Feisal Mosleh, a senior vice president at Kanzatec, comments, “I would speculate that Apple will continue to be at the center of the litigation map of large mobile IT companies for as long as it maintains its dominant place in the market”
II. …Some of Them Want to be Abused
On the other hand, Apple has also been a student of these firms and take a page from their playbook, initiating suits with rivals. When Google Inc.’s (GOOG) Android moved into the passing lane, late Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ feelings on the OS changed from it being a tolerable nuisance to being an intolerable “thief”.
Despite his firm borrowing multiple innovations from Android — true multi-tasking, notifications, copy and paste, etc. (innovations that were present in Windows Mobile, of course, long before that even). — Mr. Jobs claimed that Android phonemakers were “stealing” his company’s intellectual property.
Apple initiated a suit against top rival Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) in April 2011, after first suing smaller Android phonemaker HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) in March 2010. Both companies have filed countersuits against Apple in several regions, claiming Apple stole their intellectual property.
Apple has also looked to bully now bankrupt Eastman Kodak Corp., the company that invented the digital camera. Apple tried to stop a sale of the bankrupt firm’s intellectual property.
Steven P. Jobs’ dying wish of “thermonuclear war” with Android has been fulfilled.
Google has fought back against Apple, initiating a preemptive strike with subsidiary Motorola Mobility in Oct. 2010. That barrage was countered by Apple, which sued Motorola the same month. Those lawsuits appear to be dead in the U.S., following a landmark ruling by a veteran Chicago-area federal judge.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple also has been battered by lawsuits from Nokia Oyj. (HEX:NOK1V). The veteran Finnish phonemaker successfully forced Apple into one licensing settlement and is actively pursuing a new infringement lawsuit.
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