updated 10:55 am EDT, Mon October 8, 2012
Apple, Google now spending more on patents than original research
At a 2006 meeting, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told people that the company was going to "patent it all" when it came to the iPhone, according to a former Apple executive reached by the New York Times. The decision was reportedly inspired by previous losses in intellectual property cases, mostly notably to Creative, which it ended up paying $100 million in order to settle a dispute over a "portable music playback device" patent. Following the meeting, Apple engineers are said to have been brought into monthly "invention disclosure sessions" where just about any idea was treated as patentable by lawyers.
A former Apple lawyer in touch with the Times claims that the company was so aggressive about filing for patents that it would submit an item "even if we knew it wouldn't get approved." Jobs even made a point out of highlighting patents during the iPhone's 2007 introduction, putting a bulletpoint onscreen and telling the audience, "And boy have we patented it."
The Times remarks that both Apple and Google are now spending more on patents than they are on original research and development. Apple, though, has issued a statement defending its approach. "Apple has always stood for innovation," the message says. "To protect our inventions, we have patented many of the new technologies in these groundbreaking and category-defining products. In the rare cases when we take legal action over a patent dispute, it's only as a last resort. We think companies should dream up their own products rather than willfully copying ours, and in August a jury in California reached the same conclusion."
The last line is a reference to Apple's initial victory in a US trial against Samsung, in which the jury recommended awarding over $1 billion in damages. The outcome of that case has yet to be fully resolved however, meaning that actual damages could be different, or that Samsung might win an appeal.