Computer makers Acer, Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard were sued last week for allegedly violating four patents held by Saxon Innovations, an intellectual property licensing company based in Tyler, Texas.
The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Texas, which has long been seen as a plaintiff-friendly venue by patent litigators.
Saxon claims that Acer, Apple, Dell, and HP have violated its "Wireless Communications Privacy Method and System" patent (5,592,555) and its "Clock Generator Capable of Shut-Down Mode and Clock Generation Method" patent (5,502,689). It claims Apple, Dell, and HP have violated its "Apparatus and Method for Disabling Interrupt Masks In Processors or the Like" patent (5,530,597). And it claims HP has violated its "Keypad Monitor With Keypad Activity-Based Activation" patent (5,235,635).
HP is one of several companies to form a group called Allied Security Trust to pool patents as a means of mutual defense against patent claims, according to a report in Monday's Wall Street Journal. The group also includes Google, Cisco, Ericsson, Telefon AB L.M., and Verizon Communications.
In its public policy blog last September, Google noted that a "growing chorus of business leaders and companies spanning the technology, financial services, and traditional manufacturing industries [have] joined with legal scholars, economists, consumer and public interest organizations, government institutions and major editorial boards in calling for patent reform."
At present, the Patent Reform Act, a piece of legislation championed by Google and other tech companies, remains stalled in the Senate. Opponents of the bill claim that the legislation favors large patent holders over small ones and that it would limit the statutory damage awards arising from patent infringement.
A paper published last November, "Patents, Thickets and the Financing of Early-Stage Firms: Evidence from the Software Industry," claims there's a statistically significant correlation between patents and the success of startup software companies. "Firms that have higher numbers of patents and patent applications pending are more likely to receive funding from outside investors, and more likely to subsequently 'exit' from the entrepreneurial phase through IPO or acquisition," the paper says.