The smartphone industry spent as much as $20 billion on patents alone last year. Consequently, for the first time, spending by both Apple and Google on patents exceeded the two firms' spending on research and development of new products.
Patent research by The New York Times revealed a slew of interesting information pertaining to spending on patents in 2011. Firstly, the quantity of patent applications registered by Apple in the last decade has risen almost tenfold.
The “Siri Patent” #8,086,604, meanwhile, apparently took 10 attempts to get approved by the suitable authorities.
“When I get an application, I basically have two days to research and write a 10- to 20-page term paper on why I think it should be approved or rejected,” Robert Budens said, who has been a 22-year patent examiner and president of the examiners’ labor union. “I’m not going to pretend like we get it right every time.”
Some experts now worry that Apple's large portfolio of patents may give the firm control of technologies that have been independently developed at several companies over the past 7 years.
“Apple could get a chokehold on the smartphone industry,” said Tim O’Reilly, a software patent critic. “A patent is a government-sanctioned monopoly, and we should be very cautious about handing those out.”
As for Google, the search engine giant last year paid a record $12.5 billion for Motorola predominately to acquire the rights to its patents. Microsoft also contributed to the $20 billion in patents spending; the firm bought over 800 AOL Patents for over $1 billion.
Apple said on the recently uncovered patent spending figures:
Apple has always stood for innovation. 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.