Apple Battles Patent Trolls on Two Fronts

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Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/81446200@N05/

Sometimes, even titans of the technology sector have to band together to fight patent trolls. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has reportedly teamed up with Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and a dozen other major tech, telecom, and Internet companies to stand against patent trolls like IPCom GmbH, a German patent assertion entity that apparently holds a critical telecom patent that is used by many of the world’s largest tech companies.

The patent in question relates to how mobile networks give priority to emergency calls. The technology described by the patent gives mobile phones used by emergency services like police, firefighters, and paramedics priority access across multiple networks if the networks are already experiencing high traffic. According to IPCom, the technology is mandatory under UMTS and LTE cellphone standards — its easy to see how critical the patent could be during a crisis.

Allegedly violating the patent is no small crime, either. IPCom is demanding 1.57 billion euros (about $2.1 billion) from Apple for exactly that — and has sued a number of other companies including Nokia, Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD), and HTC Corp. Apple will be forced to address the issue in regional court in Mannheim, Germany.

This is not the first, and probably won’t be the last time that Apple has been sued by a patent troll, and the tech industry at large appears to be at the end of its rope on the issue. Top tech companies from around the world are pressing courts in the U.S. to revisit patent law and patent disputes, particularly the way fees are collected.

Back in the states, Apple is being sued by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation over allegations that the iPhone maker used the university’s patented technology for its A7 processor. Apple Insider reports that the patent in dispute is titled, “Table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer,” and according to the complaint, it covers a method that “significantly improved the efficiency and performance of contemporary computer processors.”

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has also been accused of being a patent troll. PatentFreedom describes WARF as a non-practicing entity with the fifth-largest holding of active patents in the U.S. PatentFreedom describes lawsuits from NPEs as “particularly challenging” for practicing companies such as Apple because their lack of products and services makes them “invulnerable to the threat of counter-assertion.” In other words, Apple is unable to accuse WARF of infringing on Apple’s patents because the organization doesn’t make any products or provide any services that would utilize a patented technology. This is one of the core complaints being argued by tech companies in U.S. courts as they seek reform.

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