No one expects reforms to happen overnight. Particularly when the U.S. government and the entire tech industry deal with the tangled nuances of patent law, positive changes in the system will naturally be slow in coming.
But in the meantime, companies continue to use and abuse patent rights to go after competitors -- or after any entity with deep enough pockets. While many of the industry's larger players, such as Qualcomm
And the cost of damages seems to know no limits. The industry marveled at the $612 million Research In Motion
Then there's small holding company Minerva Industries, which sued dozens of companies, including Apple
All of this suing makes a few things obvious to me. First, patent shakedowns will continue as long as there are patents, because the financial incentive exists. Second, any aspiring college graduate who can withstand the tough curriculum of law should strongly consider it as a career choice, because patent lawyers and attorneys probably have more long-term job security than do folks in any other profession.
Seriously, though, litigation surrounding patents has become an increasingly large cost of doing business, particularly in the wireless world. High-stakes litigation results can also significantly skew the competitive environment and success -- or doom -- of companies. Investors need to consider carefully the legal risks of companies they own, particularly if any are smaller fish navigating a pool of sharks.
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