Patent Battles Proliferate In Mobile Industry: 10 Reasons Why

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-08-04 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Google is complaining that its competitors, Apple and Microsoft, are waging a "bogus" patent fight because they are trying to stymie the growth of Android. But the devil is in the details of this patent lawsuit battle that has entangled a number of companies in the mobile industry.

In a blog post on Aug. 3, Google senior vice president and chief legal officer, David Drummond, sent shockwaves through the mobile market, charging his company's chief competitors, including Apple and Microsoft, with waging "bogus" patent fights against the search giant.

Drummond said that he believes those companies are trying to "strangle" the competitive choice consumers around the globe currently enjoy. And he wanted to speak out against that.

Drummond's statements are interesting, and they have proven to be a lightning rod for controversy throughout the industry. But they underscore the reality of the situation: mobile patent battles are flying, and so far, there is no end in sight.

As of this writing, patent battles are being waged between Oracle and Google, Apple and Samsung, and Microsoft and HTC, among others. And if Apple, RIM, Microsoft and others, are allowed to secure the Nortel patents they have acquired, the number of lawsuits might grow.

Read on to find out why so many patent battles are brewing today in the mobile market.

1. Android's lead scares competitors

Android's success in the mobile market has taken more than a few people by surprise. When the platform first launched, many thought it would be just another competitor in the marketplace. But now, Android is dominating the mobile market with nearly 50 percent share during the last quarter alone. That is scaring the platform's competitors and they're using their patent portfolios to try and stymie Android's growth.

2. It's easy

Let's face it: filing for a patent and forcing companies to pay boatloads of fees in litigation is easy, especially for the companies that are doing it. Samsung, Apple and Microsoft all have more than enough cash to launch as many lawsuits as they want without feeling the effects of them. Since they own so many patents, getting a case in front of the U.S. ITC or district court judges isn't so difficult.

3. Tit for tat

In the mobile space right now, there is a lot of give-and-take going on. For example, after Apple sued Samsung, the iPhone maker was hit by patent-infringement suits by Samsung. Now, the fight between the companies doesn't appear to be settling down. It's a similar story elsewhere around the mobile market. As soon as one company gets hit with a lawsuit, it responds. That isn't helping matters for those who want to see fewer lawsuits in the industry.

4. It's another revenue opportunity

For Microsoft, suing Android vendors is a revenue opportunity. Because of its strong patent portfolio, Microsoft has been going to vendors and requiring them to pay a "tax" for every smartphone they sell. Some companies, including Velocity Micro, have agreed to pay to the tax. Others have not. But if nothing else, the patents appear to be a revenue opportunity for some companies.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel