Top Motivator for Tech in 2011... the Patent Lawsuit

Written by  Tuesday, 27 December 2011 18:44 Published in Editorials

animal_farm-pigsOver the course of the next few weeks you will read dozens of articles on the web and in print talking about the top technology and how this or that product shaped the market. However, no matter how impressive the technology was there was one thing that shaped the world of consumer electronics more than anything else. The lawsuit; it is a simple and unfortunate fact that patent and copyright lawsuits had a bigger impact on the consumer electronic market than any 5 products put together.

The leader behind this drive has been Apple. According to Apple these lawsuits and complaints are all in an effort to protect their intellectual property and in some cases they are doing exactly that. The problem stems from their design and interaction patents (slide to unlock?). Here they are operating on very shaky ground with patents that are so vague that they could be applied to almost anything.

Apple’s belief that it owns the rights to essential technology is further evidenced by the way they try to get around FRAND patents (Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory licensing). Here they feel they can operate outside the legal guidelines (as they have done with Motorola in Germany).  

Of course this type of behavior is not limited to Apple by any means. Microsoft spent the better part of the year offering patent protection to companies that were using the Android OS. They pretty much forced any mobile phone/tablet maker to pay up or face litigation; it was quite disgusting to see this happening.

With all of these patent and copyright lawsuits going on very little was done to advance the market. In fact we are getting ready to walk into a CES where we might not see much that is truly new, but an awful lot of refreshed material.  The theme right now looks to be mobile entertainment and the connected home.
Meanwhile the US Patent office has changed their policy from First to Invent/Produce to First to File. This move is only encouraging companies to patent concepts and ideas rather than real products. We expect to see a whole new round of patent lawsuits in 2012 with nothing more than a concept at the root of the litigation.

On top of all of the patent wars going on the US Congress is trying to push a bill that seems like it is right out of a bad totalitarian movie. If you have not heard of SOPA then you have not been alive for the past few weeks. The SOPA bill (Stop Online Piracy Act) is trying to make it legal to block site access at the DNS and IP level for sites that are merely accused of copyright infringement.

All in all 2011 really missed out on the chance to bring something truly new to the market. Instead the market will now get to pay for all of the legal fees Apple, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Microsoft, ... (ad nausea) have had to pay, we will just see it as a price hike in the products that are pushed out to us as new, but really aren’t.

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Read 752 times Last modified on Tuesday, 27 December 2011 18:55