Patent cases treble in a year as downturn bites

THE NUMBER of patent disputes lodged in Britain has almost trebled over the last year, as firms desperately vie to protect their market share in a dismal economic climate, research released today shows.

Law firm EMW says the High Court in London saw 183 patent and design cases last year, compared with 65 in 2010. The news comes as Apple and Samsung prepare to fight a pivotal US lawsuit today over claims that the South Korean giant infringed on Apple designs in its smartphones.

Samsung, which recently became the world’s largest smartphone maker, faces a ban on its popular Galaxy handsets if Apple is successful. Apple is seeking at least $2.53bn (£1.6bn) in damages.

Mark Finn, an intellectual property lawyer at EMW, said firms “will be fighting for every edge they can find” in a recession.

“That means more litigation, which businesses find too uncertain and distracting when the economy is performing well,” he said. “Companies will look for any way to cut costs or maintain their advantage over rivals.”

Samsung and Apple have fought a number of high-profile patent infringement cases in several countries. However, the eventual outcome of the current lawsuit, which starts in California today, will be a crucial test of Apple’s claims, with more at risk to both sides than at any trial yet.

Apple recently lost High Court trials against Samsung and rival HTC. The impending lawsuit is expected to take up to four weeks to resolve.