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Apple's Patent Wars Against Android/Linux Make Patent Trolls Stronger

Rounded corners? Apple's invention!

UK power socket



Summary: Apple's insistence that designs should be patentable could prove to be collectively expensive, as patent trolls would then use a possible SCOTUS nod to launch litigation campaigns

TROLLS, or patent sharks, typically use software patents, but what if they also had design patents at their disposal?



Apple's war on Android, which manifested itself in a now-settled case against HTC and later in a long patent war against Samsung, may prove to be counterproductive now that Apple attracts patent trolls like VirnetX, to which it might be forced to pay billions of dollars. A pro-software patents site now says that “Apple will also be an even richer target for the new breed of design patent trolls” if it wins its case against Samsung/Android (over design patents). To quote this new article:

On October 11, 2016, the Supreme Court will hear Samsung’s appeal of the Federal Circuit’s affirmation of the jury’s damage award to Apple of Samsung’s “total profits” on sales of the infringing smartphones even though it had only infringed Apple’s design of the iPhone’s outer shell. In upholding the “total profits” award, the Federal Circuit determined that it was bound to uphold the jury’s award by the “explicit” and “clear” statutory language relating to design patent infringement damages.

[...]

The importance of the Supreme Court’s ultimate ruling here is underscored by the numerous amicus curiae briefs filed (27 at last count). With over 205 billion in cash reserves at last count, Apple certainly doesn’t “need” the full nine-figure damage award. And, given the far reaching implications of this case, Apple may live to regret its aggressive pursuit of “total profits” for design patent infringement by finding itself battling design patent holders seeking to recover Apple’s total device profits for infringement of even a minor design feature. Apple will also be an even richer target for the new breed of design patent trolls already surfacing based, at least in part, on Apple’s success in this case. Clearly it is time for Congress to step in and amend Section 289 to add apportionment language.


No wonder technology companies are overwhelmingly supportive of Samsung in this case -- a high-profile case over design patents.

In other news, Vera Ranieri from the EFF has this new update about one of their high-profile cases against patent trolls. Ranieri writes:

There has been significant activity relating to cases and patent infringement claims made by Shipping & Transit, LLC, formerly known as ArrivalStar. Shipping & Transit, who we’ve written about on numerous occasions, is currently one of the most prolific patent trolls in the country. Lex Machina data indicates that, since January 1, 2016, Shipping & Transit has been named in almost 100 cases. This post provides an update on some of the most important developments in these cases.

In many Shipping & Transit cases, Shipping & Transit has alleged that retailers allowing their customers to track packages sent by USPS infringe various claims of patents owned by Shipping & Transit, despite previously suing (and settling with) USPS. EFF represents a company that Shipping & Transit accused of infringing four patents.


The above is a timely and good example. It demonstrates not just of the harms of patent trolls but also the harms of software patents, which in the large majority of cases rely on them. If Apple made design patents stronger, with affirmation from the Supreme Court (SCOTUS), the damage would be enormous.

Apple is on the wrong side of history.

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