Patent wars hit record high as tech firms fight

THE GLOBAL technology patent wars hit a new high in 2012, with a record number of applications made for international computing patents.

A flurry of costly court cases between smartphone and tablet companies such as Apple, Samsung and Nokia has upped the value of patents in the last 12 months, and this was responsible for a 19 per cent rise in applications last year, according to legal information firm Sweet & Maxwell.

Some 14,205 technology-based applications were made under the global Patent Co-operation Treaty last year, compared with 11,974 in 2011.

Intellectual property lawsuits between technology firms were thrown into the spotlight last year when Samsung was order to pay around $1bn (£633m) to Apple after it was found to have used patented Apple technology in its smartphones.

The case, one of many that has been fought between the two companies around the world, is being appealed by Samsung.

Meanwhile, Google spent $12.5bn on acquiring lossmaking phone manufacturer Motorola, with the value of Motorola’s patent arsenal believed to be a key factor.

“Virtually every major company in the consumer electronics market is now involved in intellectual property litigation with at least one of its competitors,” said Gwilym Roberts, a partner at intellectual property lawyers Kilburn & Strode. “Everyone involved is now arming themselves with a war chest of patents.”

The record figures come amid warnings that patent litigation stifles innovation. Samsung and Apple have both been warned by regulators to calm their legal aggression.