No matter what kind of business you run, having your ideas, designs, and technology registered as your own creations is an essential step in protecting your intellectual property. Regardless of the industry you operate in, or what sort of innovation you have come up with, registering a patent as soon as possible is an important process which could save you suffering legal consequences further down the line.
Unfortunately, since the dawn of the internet age, patent trolls have become a threat to companies of all sizes. These companies have been suing businesses for copyright infringement, having bought up a huge range of unrelated patents which are phrased vaguely enough to hold water in court. While these patent trolls have previously targeted major companies, they are now going after smaller enterprises. Startups who are sued by patent trolls may be tempted to settle quickly to avoid going to court, however, as Inc notes, “these [trolls] and their attorneys know one another…Once you’ve shown yourself willing to pay up, you could get more demands from other companies claiming patent infringement”.
Whilst patent trolls now concentrate on SMEs, major corporations are now all too content to start patent battles amongst themselves, which continue to rage between even the most well-known companies. Here are three of the more high-profile patent battles which have played out recently, all of which reinforce the importance of protecting intellectual property from the very start.
Apple vs Samsung: Who is smarter?
The first smartphone—that is, a mobile phone which doubls up as a personal digital assistant—may have been launched in 1992 by IBM, but the term really caught on with the advent of touchscreen technology. Since then, the two major players have been Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s phones that use Android OS. The first iPhone came out in 2007, and Samsung’s first smartphone—a precursor to their Galaxy series called Instinct—appeared the following year.
Chronology alone should suggest quite clearly that Samsung stole Apple’s idea, at least in part, and unsurprisingly, Apple were quick to take them to court. A lawsuit was launched in 2011, citing near-identical “user interface and design features”. This suit came despite the fact that Apple had invested a great deal of money in exchange for Samsung supplying core hardware components to their products, including various iPhones. Ironically, it was the similarity of these component parts to those used by Samsung which led to the suit, as well as disputes over the layout of icons on the screen and even the now-iconic design of the phones themselves.
The suit has dragged on until the present day, with the US Supreme Court ruling in favour of Apple, and Samsung appealing the verdict that they owe $539 million in damages.
BlackBerry vs Snapchat: When is a patent troll not a patent troll?
With a devastating 0.0% share of the marketplace, BlackBerry may have lost the smartphone war, eventually giving up physical production of its phones in 2016, but it continues to pick battles. Described by Gizmodo as “a veritable patent troll” in its current guise for having also attempted to sue Facebook, the company have turned their attention to Snapchat’s parent company Snap. The complaint is the same as the one they levelled against Facebook: infringement of “six patents including map improvements for mobile devices, advertising techniques, and UI improvements for mobile devices”.
Both Snap and Facebook have moved to dismiss the claims, noting that they are—much like claims made by patent trolls—extremely broad. Considering that Blackberry sold their design and manufacturing rights in 2016, Gizmodo’s accusation may, in this case, be somewhat accurate. The Verge also points out that BlackBerry are not alone in doing this, noting that “TiVo…still manufactures products, but makes most of its money through litigation and licensing patents”.
Tinder vs Bumble: Which side are you swiping?
Tinder may be the first swipe-based dating app, but Bumble has been hot on its heels. Its feminist take on online dating—only women are allowed to send the first message after a match—has been seen as a hugely positive step to “empower women” looking to meet people. This reflects the tempestuous behind-the-scenes story of the two apps. Bumble was founded in late 2014 by Whitney Herd, who also co-founded Tinder and left that company after suing her co-founder for sexual harassment.
A year later, the relationship got even more complicated, as Tinder sued Bumble for copying its unique features, including swiping functionality, and an undo button. Some have noted that this suit has also been conducted in order for Tinder’s parent company, Match Group, to corner online dating market—a theory compounded by Match Group’s recent acquisition of the Facebook-run dating app Hinge. While the two apps do share significant traits, it is notable that other Match-owned dating apps such as OKCupid have also begun using the swiping and undo features.
No matter the motivation behind these patent suits, you shouldn’t let your ideas potentially suffer the same fate. Contact us today to learn more about our patent registration services.