The 10 tech companies sued the most for patent infringement between 2004 and 2008 are Samsung, Microsoft, Motorola, HP, AT&T, Sony, LG, Apple, Dell, and Nokia.
As an example, there were 34 patent-infringement lawsuits filed by NPEs against Microsoft between 2004 and 2008. In 2004, there were three such suits. In 2005, there were five. In 2006, there were six. In 2007, there were 11. And in 2008, there were nine.
NPEs filed 88% of patent suits against U.S. technology companies over the past five years, according to the Coalition on Patent Fairness, which also claims that licensing fee requests to U.S. technology companies have increased 650% since 2004.
In 2005, Nathan Myhrvold, CEO of Intellectual Ventures, a major patent holding company, defended NPEs in his testimony before the House Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.
"Discriminating against patent holders on the basis of whether or not they produce a product disenfranchises some of America’s most creative and prolific inventors," he said. "This broad group includes: university professors and research scientists, who often make great breakthroughs without having the facilities or resources to manufacture the products commercially; individual inventors who are in the same situation; and, finally small businesses who may commercialize some of their inventions but frequently invent more than they are able to productize simultaneously."
Myhrvold said that there's nothing dishonorable about licensing patents, as Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla did. He expressed some sympathy for Microsoft, where he used to work as chief technology officer, because it's a major target for patent lawsuits. But, he insisted, the "magnitude of the supposed problem is not borne out by the statistics."
Nonetheless, the lobbying clout of the tech industry appears to be moving the needle toward reform of some kind. In a blog post on Tuesday, the Coalition on Patent Fairness hailed a tentative deal among Senate lawmakers to advance legislation to update U.S. patent laws.
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