Who has the most patents? Apple sues despite smaller patent portfolio

It’s no secret patent-related legal disputes have become the subject of most media coverage lately…Whether it’s Apple halting sales of Samsung’s tablets, HTC going after Apple, or Google snatching up Motorola to beef up their patent portfolio, it’s clear the company with the most patents will have an advantage over others in the legal proceedings that we’re bound to continue encountering down the road. This is why we’re intrigued by the graphic above (via GigaOM) from mobile analyst Chetan Sharma charting the number of issued patents (in the US and Europe) between 1993 and 2011.

While these estimates of mobile communications related patents don’t take the quality of patents into account (which is obviously a huge factor in determining their long-term value), you can see from the breakdown below that Nokia and Samsung top the list, with the other expected players including IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Motorola, and Intel following.

Noticeably far down the list is Apple, the one company who seems to have had more success than others fighting patent-related issues recently. Again, these numbers in no way represent the quality of patents and the ability for companies to protect their IPs in the courtroom… which is also a good indication that perhaps we should be looking more closely at the quality of patents rather than the sheer number.

Recently patent expert Florian Mueller took to Twitter following the Google/Motorola acquisition saying he“would caution everyone against overestimating the strength of Motorola Mobility’s patent portfolio,”  he continued, “Apple and Microsoft sued Motorola Mobility anyway”. Remember kids… all patents aren’t created equally.
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ITC rules: HTC violated two of Apple’s patents

CNET reports that the International Trade Commission has officially ruled that phone maker HTC has violated two of Apple’s patents related to iPhone technologies. This blow to HTC opens the door to a potential ban on imports of HTC products into the United States. Apple initially filed 10 patent violations against HTC, but increased that amount by five earlier this week. HTC obviously does not agree with the ITC ruling and provided the following statement:

HTC will vigorously fight these two remaining patents through an appeal before the ITC commissioners who make the final decision,” said Grace Lei, general counsel for HTC. “This is only one step of many in these legal proceedings.

As we know, Apple and Samsung (and Motorola too) are currently in a similar situation with Apple claiming multiple patent violations against the company. The twist in the Apple and Samsung case is that Samsung is counter-suing by claiming that Apple is violating Samsung’s patents.

There are only a few possibile endings if Apple wins HTC case. Either the two companies settle (with Apple taking home some more of HTC’s money – Microsoft already takes $5/phone and Oracle is looking for some more) or HTC stops selling Android devices. In all likelihood, if the ITC does not agree with HTC’s appeal, the two technology heavy weights will work out some settlement.  Cha Ching!

More on the patents below:

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