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The year in legal: Patents hamper technology innovation

27 Dec 2012

This year will end up being remembered for its litigation just as much as its innovation.

Legal battles took a lion's share of technology news this year. From patent battles to privacy battles, the legality of 21st century innovation has continued to stifle the industry.

Apple and Samsung have been entrenched in global patent lawsuits for two years. The two firms have sued each other around the globe this year.

Samsung was first sued for patent infringement in 2011. Apple accused Samsung of infringing on iPhone design and technology patents in a US lawsuit. Samsung counter-sued Apple in South Korea as retaliation.

The suits snowballed into cases around the world. Apple and Samsung legally fought in countries from Australia to the Netherlands.

Apple's case in the UK ended up in a highly publicised Samsung victory and public apology. German cases ended with a regional ban on Samsung Galaxy tablets.

The high-profile US case saw Samsung pay Apple $1bn in damages. Samsung has appealed the ruling and its case is now being heard by US District Judge Lucy Koh. Apple also sued Samsung again on new charges this November.

All of this and no end looks to be in sight. Apple and Samsung have the money to allow this sort of litigation to continue for years to come. Both companies will continue to make new products and sue new products well into the future.

Over at Motorola Mobility, the firm started its US patent litigation with Apple a year before Samsung. In 2010, Motorola Mobility sued Apple for infringements found in Macs, iPhones, and iPods.

Apple quickly counter-sued Motorola in a US court in Wisconsin. The company claimed Motorola had stolen from some of its touchscreen and other display tools.

Motorola also presented suits against Apple in Germany. Apple product injunctions were ordered in Germany last February. The ruling led Apple to send a complaint to the European Commission.

Apple alleged that Motorola was using standard-essential patents to unfairly sue the competition out of market. The case is currently being reviewed.

A US Motorola v Apple case in the US was thrown out of court this November. Judge Barbara Cobb said Apple would not have listened to the court's guidance had a pro-Motorola verdict been reached.

The global legal battle between Motorola and Apple looks to get even more divisive as Google recently purchased Motorola Mobility.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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