Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has once again secured a high-ranking spot on a list of companies with the most NPE (non-practicing entity) lawsuits. According to data compiled by PatentFreedom, an organization that caters to companies being sued by non-practicing entities, Apple was the target of 42 NPE lawsuits in 2013. PatentFreedom previously ranked Apple as the No. 1 target of NPE lawsuits in 2012.
However, Apple was only the third-most targeted company of NPE lawsuits in 2013. As seen in the table above, AT&T (NYSE:T) earned the No. 1 spot, with 51 total NPE lawsuits filed against it in 2013. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) tied Apple with 42 lawsuits each, while Samsung (SSNLF.PK) rounded out the top five with 38 lawsuits.
Although AT&T was the target of more NPE lawsuits than Apple last year, the California-based company holds the No. 2 spot in overall rankings. According to PatentFreedom’s data, Apple has had a total of 191 NPE lawsuits filed against it since 2009. Google edged out Apple for the No. 1 spot overall, with 192 lawsuits.
Per PatentFreedom, an NPE is a company that derives “the majority of its revenue from the licensing or enforcement of its intellectual property.” These entities are also popularly referred to as “patent trolls,” although Patent Freedom prefers to avoid the use of that term.
Patent Freedom says NPEs typically acquire patent portfolios for the express purpose of suing practicing companies; they do not actually use those patents. For this reason, these entities are “essentially invulnerable to the threat of counter-assertion,” which makes their lawsuits “particularly challenging” for practicing companies such as Apple.
Apple has already been targeted by at least one NPE lawsuit this year. As previously reported, Rembrandt Patent Innovations LLC and Rembrandt Secure Computing LP filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Apple on January 10 in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a popular venue for many intellectual property licensing companies.
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