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Wednesday, February 05, 2014, 06:33 am PT (09:33 am ET)

Hit with another $2B damage claim, Apple joins Google in pressing Supreme Court to curb patent abuse

As Apple prepares to defend itself against a multi-billion dollar patent infringement claim in Europe, the company has aligned with rival Google in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to allow stiffer penalties for patent trolls who bring frivolous lawsuits.

Supreme Court


Apple will square off next week against German patent monetization firm IPCom in a $2 billion battle over a standards-essential wireless patent, according to FOSS Patents, the latest in a long line of patent-related legal skirmishes fought by the iPhone maker over the last three years. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has faced 92 patent suits in the U.S. alone during that time, with nearly half of those still unresolved.

The IPCom case will be litigated in Germany's Mannheim Regional Court, but the iPhone maker is hopeful that future legal actions in its home country will come with costs that may make firms like IPCom think twice before filing.

"Apple has rarely lost on the merits," the company said in a brief filed with the Supreme Court and obtained by Bloomberg. "But victory figures as small consolation because in every one of these cases, Apple has been forced to bear its legal fees."

Apple, along with Silicon Valley titans Google, Yahoo, Intel, Cisco, and Facebook, want the court to make it easier for companies that successfully defend themselves against fatuous patent claims to collect legal fees from the aggressors. Companies can incur litigation costs running into the millions of dollars for intellectual property actions.

The Court will weigh that issue in two cases it is set to hear in the coming weeks.

Currently, federal courts allow an award of fees if the suit is found to be "objectively baseless" and filed in bad faith. The case Apple has joined with its "friend of the court" brief is seeking to have that altered, allowing awards when a company "unreasonably pursues a case having an objectively low likelihood of success."

In addition to the intellectual property claims that have entered litigation, Apple says it has a backlog of over 200 more that are still pending. The company has two attorneys on staff whose sole responsibility is responding to royalty claims, it said.