In a strange case of tech rivals working together toward a common goal, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung Electronics (SSNLF.PK), two companies that have sued each other countless times all across the globe, have joined forces in an effort to limit “patent trolls,” companies less disparagingly known as “patent-buying” companies or simply as “intellectual property holders.”
Regardless of what they’re called, the companies in question are under fire because rather than manufacture products of any kind, they support themselves through license fees. According to Bloomberg, Apple and Samsung are among 19 companies that came together in a letter to the European Union, urging that a new court help to limit companies that license technology in order to win court injunctions “when the validity of the underlying patent is in dispute.”
Meanwhile, a similar alliance of companies, including Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) and China’s biggest smartphone maker, Huawei Technologies Co., is pushing the U.S. Supreme Court to make it easier for them to collect legal fees in patent disputes.
“Without this guidance, the potential exists for a court to order an injunction prohibiting the importation and sale of goods even though the patent may ultimately be found invalid,” a statement by the companies to the Supreme Court said.
The number of intellectual property disputes has risen in recent years, particularly in certain Western countries such as the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany, as well as in China. Bloomberg reports that intellectual property disputes make up 18 percent of cross-border litigation between companies, and that number is only expected to rise. Currently, about 44 percent of those disputes are contract disputes.
Samsung and Apple have both filed lawsuits in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany over technology related to their smartphone and tablet devices.
The increase in intellectual property disputes in recent years is due in part to changing attitudes toward patents and patent legislation across all industries, not just the tech industry, although that seems to be where the disputes garner the most attention. There’s also been an increase not just in the number of patents being litigated but in the number of patents being issued, across the board.
And while most of the political attention is focused on cases between so-called patent trolls and tech giants like Apple, the majority of intellectual property disputes are still between competitors, according to Andreas von Falck, an intellectual property lawyer with Hogan Lovells law firm, who spoke with Bloomberg.