Last month we reported that Apple was still a top target of patent trolls with a total of 42 cases filed against them in 2013 and a total of 191 over the past five years, according to stats provided by PatentFreedom. In court and regulatory filings unearthed by the Los Angeles Times, we're able to get a rare look at Apple's view of the litigation it faces from patent trolls - companies whose main business involves threatening to file patent lawsuits against other companies unless they agree to make royalty payments.
According to the LA Times, the disclosures by Apple came in two friend-of-the-court briefs recently filed in separate cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and a December letter to the Federal Trade Commission.
One of Apple's briefs noted that ""PAEs [Patent Assertion Entities, also known as Patent Trolls] do not invent, manufacture or sell any product. Many of them do nothing more than acquire vague patents, and then use litigation or the threat of litigation to negotiate royalties that are far larger than what the patents warrant."
Although Apple argues there are legitimate reasons for companies that actually make products to litigate over patents, PAEs are another story. PAEs exist, Apple says, simply to drain profit from innovative firms.
Apple stated in the brief that in 51 cases they chose to settle to avoid legal costs even though it believed it had not infringed any patents. "This reality is the lifeblood of the patent assertion industry, because the threat of fees often forces an undeserved settlement."
Apple further argued that these lawsuits don't capture the full extent of the problem. For every case that goes to court, it receives 12 or more letters making claims and asking Apple to pay royalties of some kind. Apple noted that it receives so many of these types of letters that it's forced them to hire two full time attorneys to do nothing but review them.
Another Apple brief stated that PAEs have become a drag on technological innovation, inflicting billions of dollars in deadweight losses every year."
The goal of the briefs and the FTC letter are to make the case for new rules. Apple and other tech companies are hoping a favorable Supreme Court ruling will make it easier for them to collect attorney fees from PAEs that lose in court.
Apple made the filings as part of a broader push by the tech industry to enact new rules that would deter many of the cases. A coalition of tech firms, which included Netflix Inc., Facebook Inc., LinkedIn Corp. and Google Inc., filed similar briefs in the cases. Those briefs did not divulge details of the patent litigation facing those companies.
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