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Friday, April 11, 2014, 05:22 am PT (08:22 am ET)

Apple opts out of latest patent acquisition fund from Intellectual Ventures

Prominent patent buyer Intellectual Ventures won't be able to count Apple among the participants in its latest IP purchase, as the iPhone maker has apparently opted out of its latest investment.

Supreme Court


Apple and Intel both declined to participate in the latest patent buy from Intellectual Ventures, though Microsoft and Sony are a part of the purchase, according to Reuters. One expert referred to the lack of participation from Apple and Intel as a "dramatic departure."

Apple's opt-out comes at a time when intellectual property investments are under major scrutiny. While so-called "patent trolls" target major corporations like Apple with lawsuits in an effort to profit, the smartphone industry is also filled with IP lawsuits, most prominently an ongoing worldwide battle between Samsung and Apple.

Previously, Apple and Intel joined Microsoft and Sony in buying IP through Intellectual Ventures. Those investments ensured low-cost licenses of protected patents, and also netted the companies a portion of royalties collected.

In February, Apple was joined by Google in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make changes that would curb patent abuse and allow stiffer penalties for "trolls" who bring frivolous lawsuits that can prove quite costly in the courtroom. They, along with Intel, Yahoo, Cisco and Facebook, asked the court to make it easier for companies to defend themselves against patent claims, which are frequently brought by companies that produce no products and simply profit from royalties and legal action.

Patents


In addition, earlier this month Apple joined a number of major U.S. corporations, including Microsoft, IBM, Ford and Pfizer, to form a lobbying group that opposes proposed changes to the American patent system. The "Partnership for American Innovation" has expressed concern that some proposed legislation in Congress intended to fight "trolls" could also hurt major, more legitimate corporations.

Last August it was revealed that those "trolls," or non-practicing intellectual property owning entities, had hit Apple with 171 lawsuits in the last five years. That made Apple handily the most-targeted corporation, easily beating the 137 lawsuits seen by No. 2 Hewlett Packard, and 133 complaints against third-place Samsung.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook spoke with members of the U.S. Senate about patent issues during a testimony last May. But the CEO spoke of his own interest in strengthening companies' abilities to protect their own intellectual property, rather than warding off lawsuits from non-practicing entities.