Filed Under:

Patent Wars Could Dull Tech's Cutting Edge

Play associated audio

Some call it an international patent arms race: Tech companies like Apple, Samsung, Nokia and Google are launching lawsuits over competing patent claims related to smartphones and tablets.

As NPR's Laura Sydell tells Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne, companies are mounting takeovers aimed at gaining control of thousands of patents.

Google recently spent $12.5 billion to buy Motorola Mobility, a cellphone manufacturer with more than 17,000 patents. And as Sydell has previously reported, "patent trolls" are on the lookout for potential infringements and the payday that a lawsuit might bring.

But those clashes don't affect only the tech giants. The patent war may have some collateral damage, Sydell says.

"It does affect more than just these big companies," she says. "So you, as a consumer, first off, may pay more. Secondly, it may slow down innovation. There are a variety of ways in which this is also being used to stop the next cool thing from happening. Because you can just try and sue not only a big company — but maybe a small company that's coming in to compete in your market with some new, cool idea."

The patent wars aren't likely to end anytime soon, Sydell says. Google finally entered the fray by buying Motorola Mobility, and other companies are looking at potential purchases that might bring them protection from patent prospectors.

"You may see some people try to bid on Kodak, which has a huge, valuable patent portfolio," Sydell says. "Some say that Kodak's patent portfolio is even more valuable than Kodak itself."

And as a Reuters graphic that charts mobile patent lawsuits neatly shows, Kodak is suing Apple over patent infringement.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Southside With You' Has Us Asking: Where Is The Love In Black Movies?

The movie Southside with You is opening in theaters. The film follows Michelle and Barack Obama's very first date, and shows something we don't get too see too often in film: black romance.
NPR

Ramen Noodles Are Now The Prison Currency Of Choice

Ramen will buy anything from smuggled fruit to laundry services from fellow inmates, a study at one prison finds. It's not just that ramen is tasty: Prisoners say they're not getting enough food.
NPR

Episode 721: Unbuilding A City

Why is it so hard to knock down 17 vacant houses in a shrinking city?
WAMU 88.5

Want To Play Video Games Made In D.C.? Here's Your Chance.

An event called District Arcade brings together 23 locally made video games.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.