Intellectual Property Wars in Silicon Valley

A Silicon Valley stand-off is underway. A potentially apocalyptic patent lawsuit exchange between Google and Apple keeps both parties in check–much like the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These two tech giants are battling it out over rights surrounding the Android mobile phone platform and with Google’s recent purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. Google has a few more guns in the fight over Android rights.

Patents, of course, are often the product of Intellectual Property. They are the first defense in protecting your innovations. Naturally, if a company was using someone’s patent without their due permission/compensation the patent owner would be warranted to take legal action. However, having a patent is not as definitive as one might think. In fact, further investigation shows that about a third of the patents awarded by the U.S. patent office already exist. This blurs the lines of what technology a company can use and what is off limits. Because patents aren’t as efficiently monitored as one would think it means that if someone discovered a patent for an innovation currently being used by a big company they could have a big lawsuit on their hands and a big pay out to fill them. Naturally, it is in a company’s best interest to pick-up as many patents as they can, as a means to protect themselves and possibly ruffle the competition a little too.

Google purchased Motorola this year. By making this mover they added quite a bit of phone power and around 17,000 patents to their budding patent portfolio. Apple has been dealing with Google legally to sort out the rights to the Android mobile phone platform and it seemed that Apple had some legitimacy in their arguments to who owns what technology. Last month a judge ruled that the Android infringed on two Apple patents. However, with the addition of Motorola’s patents to Google’s portfolio Google has gained some ammunition to possibly come back at Apple with. There are a few patents that Motorola actually used against Apple Inc. in 1994, making Motorola’s presence a great tool for Google. The patents protect an array of technologies from antenna designs to touch screen motions, innovations Apple is known for.

Patents are so much a part of the American culture that they are in the constitution. Their purpose is “To promote the useful Art and Sciences.” One may wonder if that goal is being fulfilled as well as it could be. But with superpowers Apple and Google bringing patents to the battlefield it becomes an arms race to see who can get the most the quickest. It seems patents have gone from a safety thing, a check box that a beginner inventor would fulfill to get backers, to gems that a company can collect. Especially, considering that Apple and Google are on the cutting edge of our world’s technological innovation it is interesting to see them battling with tools that have been around since 1790.

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