Patent Wars, a new kind of competition
Tech companies are taking different approaches when it comes to intellectual property.
- Software patents have increasingly become subject to a high-stakes bidding war among major technology companies. Microsoft, after purchasing patents belonging to AOL for $1 billion, sold 650 of them to Facebook this week for $550 million, presumably to aid Facebook in its lawsuit against Yahoo. These charts show the complicated web of patent lawsuits, specifically among mobile companies.
- Despite Google taking control of Motorola's 17,000 existing patents in a $12.5 billion purchase last year, the company's Android phone has been the target of numerous lawsuits as well. Since 2010, there have been close to 30 cases alleging patent infringement in the design of Google's Android phone. A lawsuit is currently underway over the Android's use of Java, a programming language that is patented but that Google claims is not subject to copyright.
- In an effort to change the offensive tactics used by companies, Twitter announced a new "Innovator's Patent Agreement" on its blog on April 17. The aim of the agreement is to use patents only defensively, although there are a number of exceptions that maintain the right to sue in some cases.
- After Twitter's Innovator's Protection Agreement was announced, employees were receptive to proposed changes to the agreement on an online forum.
- A full copy of the agreement is available here.
- Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark.com, describes in a TED talk the growing industry in patent lawsuits, and how his website became one of the only technology companies to defeat a suit brought against them. The lawsuit was over a patent on the "distribution of news releases via email."
- The following images are slides from Drew Curtis's TED presentation.
- A patent is an intellectual property right granted by the United States government to an inventor in order “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States.” Below is an instructional video given to jury members in United States courts for patent lawsuits.
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