CRA Insights

Patent explosion and patent wars: Holdup, royalties and misunderstandings over market value

February 1, 2012

“Patent wars” have now been raging for a few years and signs of appeasement are few. Following Microsoft’s assertion of its “ActiveSync” patents, Apple’s litigation based partly on its “design” patents and design rights, and the Rockstar consortium acquisition of Nortel patents Google acquired MMI to get hold of MMI’s mobile communication patent portfolio and continue ongoing litigation against Apple and Microsoft. This has led to a flurry of suits and countersuits and injunctions have reached mainstream news – notably with the granting of an injunctions against Samsung’s Galaxy products in the US, decisions by Judge Posner on the appropriateness of granting injunctive relieve to SEP owners and judge Robart’s proposed methodology for the computation of FRAND royalties. By now patent wars have engulfed a number of other players, including Samsung, Huawei and Nokia and have spread to other jurisdictions such as South Korea and China.

The recent patent wars are noteworthy because they are clearly part of a broader battle for supremacy between platforms in a converged mobile environment, with large asymmetries persisting between the parties involved: device manufacturers with a stash of patents deemed “standard essential” because they have been involved early in the communication protocols.