The WebPal Wire

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Will patents become a problem for the mobile industry?


Most inventors and entrepreneurs understand just how complicated patent assertion is. People can patent or trademark things that they were not involved in creating, or they can patent a single part of a larger mechanism that already has a patent. Such stipulations may cause some serious havoc in the mobile industry in the future.

Currently the European Union is investigating patent assertion claims from all over Europe, involving Samsung, Motorola Mobility, Microsoft, and Apple. Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are complaining about Motorola Mobility Holdings, and Samsung Electronics Co. is facing an EU antitrust probe into its licensing of patents to other mobile-phone manufacturers.

“To build a smartphone, one needs thousands of standard-essential patents,” says Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner. “Any company that holds these patents can effectively hold up the entire industry with the threat of banning the products or competitors from the market.”

A report from M-Cam, a patent advisory service, also warns about the risk to the market when enforcing patents.

“Patent assertion can ultimately lead to blocking the sale of a product, or, at the very least, an innovation tariff that drags down earnings,” says the report.

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