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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Apple Patents: iPhone antenna clip, fingerprint reducing display coating, and solar power

A few more interesting Apple Inc-filed patents have surfaced today (via Patently Apple) as part of the many applications published by the US Patent & Trademark Office recently. Perhaps the most notable include a design for an iPhone antenna clip, new finger reducing oil resistant coating, and a patent describing using solar energy as an alternate power source in portable devices (something we know Apple has been researching from patents and other sources in the past).

One of the more interesting patents with technology that could (and probably should) make its way to iOS devices in the near future is a the method of reducing “finger oils on touch surfaces”. The patent describes Apple’s method of “Direct Liquid Vaporization for Oleophobic Coatings”. Fingerprints have seem to become less of an issue to iPhone users over the years, but are definitely still a major annoyance to users in less than desirable lighting conditions.

From the report:

Apple states that to prevent the deposition of oils on an electronic device surface, an oleophobic ingredient could be bonded to the electronic device surface. The oleophobic ingredient could be provided as part of a raw liquid material in one or more concentrations. To avoid adverse reactions due to exposure to air, heat, or humidity, the raw liquid material can be placed in a bottle purged with an inert gas during the manufacturing process.

The image below shows what appears to be an antenna attached to a small device’s housing via an “attachment member”. Patently Apple reports Apple states the antenna invention could be used in “their iPod family (MP3 players), a radio, an audio/video recorder, a mobile telephone, personal digital assistant, tablet computing device, or other similar device”. They also speculate from the “exploded view above that it might even be an “iPhone-nano-like device”.
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Apple granted iOS related patents for displays and voicemail

Today the US Patent and Trademark Office posted 20 new patents granted to Apple Inc, two of which are valuable patents related to the iPhone, iPad, and iOS. Patents like these have been becoming more important as mobile device manufacturers take each other to court.

According a report from Patently Apple, the three most noteworthy of the patents include one for integrated touch screen technology that allows the display to be “thinner, brighter and require less power” and require less parts to manufacture, another is related to the “Voicemail Manager” for iPhone, and the last appears to be related to “improved installation, retention and removal of hardware components” in Mac Pro or other tower-like personal computers.

Perhaps the most notable of the three is the “Integrated Touch Screen” patent. Below is a snippet of Apple’s summary from Patently Apple.

Apple’s Summary: The patent relates to touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup (i.e., the stacked material layers forming the display pixels) of a display, such as an LCD display. Circuit elements in the display pixel stackups could be grouped together to form touch sensing circuitry that senses a touch on or near the display. Touch sensing circuitry could include, for example, touch signal lines, such as drive lines and sense lines, grounding regions, and other circuitry.

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Quark gets acquired by mergers and acquisitions firm, Apple could benefit

Remember Quark? The developer of popular publishing software QuarkXPress has been sold to merger and acquisition firm Platinum Equity, and, according to a report from Techcrunch, the company is already focusing on finding a new home for the Quark’s IP. In the midst of heated patent battles between smartphone makers, what might the patents and technologies owned by Quark have to offer Apple?

Magazine and newspaper subscriptions are a big focus for Apple, it’s clear with the introduction of Newsstand in iOS 5, an app dedicated to helping manage digital subscriptions. Quark recently launched their QuarkXPress 9 publishing software that will allow publications to “design for and publish to digital devices in a variety of formats”, specifically the iPad, “without requiring the services of a programmer.”

Apple has helped Quark in the past, offering their services to get the publishing platform working on Mac OSX.

The majority of large publications have millions in funding behind them when creating the digital version of their magazines for the iPad. However, if Apple were to integrate Quark software into an SDK specifically for publishers, the subscriptions market on iOS devices might closer resemble the ecosystem currently in place for games. In other words, giving developers without millions in funding the “tools to convert existing layouts to rich, interactive content — or create new iPad content from scratch” may bring with it a rush of quality content with subscription models much more attractive to users than those offered by the larger publications.

Apple is clearly making digital subscriptions a focus in iOS 5 with Newsstand Kit, which provides the ability update issues in the background and auto-update subscriptions, but the SDK certainly falls short of everything Quark software could offer publishers.
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Samsung drops counter-suit against Apple to speed up legal proceedings

In April, Apple originally filed a lawsuit against Samsung saying Samsung’s Galaxy Tab copied the iPhone and iPad. Soon after, Samsung filed a counter-patent suit against Apple and asked to see the iPhone 5 and iPad 3. Seeing the unreleased devices was denied by a judge earlier this year. This week Samsung has dropped their counter-patent suit.

The suit was dropped on June 30th, but Samsung will continue to fight patents with an earlier counter-patent suit.  While Samsung dropped the suit in the U.S., it won’t affect other patent suits they have. Besides the U.S., Samsung has lawsuits against Apple in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the U.K.

Samsung’s spokesperson Nam Ki Yung told Bloomberg the counter-suit was dropped “to streamline the legal proceedings”. Nam also told Bloomberg, “Samsung will continue to actively defend and protect our intellectual property”.