By now many of you have heard of a little something happening in the technology industry called the patent wars. A war of attrition between technological giants, some smaller firms, and new patent investment funds (read: patent trolls). This war is designed to raise operating costs of those companies that cannot afford to buy a large portfolio of patents, or cannot afford to staff a team of patent attorneys.
Apple seems to be pursuing a mobile strategy that is partly centered around the use of patent enforcement and accumulation. But for the average consumer, the result of such a divisive struggle between the large mobile players, Apple, and patent trolls will mean higher prices for consumers, due to patent licensing, and litigation costs, as well as an anti competitive atmosphere that prohibits small players from existing in or entering such a hostile market. This patent war could mean the eventual exclusion of players such as RIM, and other smaller mobile players, from remaining competitive in the market.
There is another anti-competitive and distinctly anti free market aspect of the existing patent war. Will this conflict cause companies to spend ever increasing amounts of money on litigation, rather than paying for designers, and engineers? Could there be a congealing of innovation, in favor of a zero sum game approach to competition? Instead of making the pie larger, are we making it smaller by stifling competition, by making every swipe, every design feature, every aspect of a gadget, patent-able?
Some notable examples of the recent patent war insanity:
Swipe to Unlock: Apple owns this patent and is part of its arsenal against other mobile manufactures and Google.
Text prediction: Apple owns this patent, though it is arguable they were the original developers of the technology. Most likely, they bought this patent from a third party.
And voice recognition: Really? On an anecdotal level, I remember a few instances of the technology showing up in products before the advent of Siri.
Current Court battles by country:
All across Europe
The patent wars are spreading, a war of attrition, with no winners.