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Apple CEO Tim Cook: Patent Wars Are a Pain in the Ass

Tim Cook has been CEO of Apple since late August of 2011 but last night marked a milestone for the CEO: It was his first time being interviewed by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the AllThingsDigital conference, a conference that Jobs was no stranger to.

Mossberg and Swisher talked to Cook about a lot of things over the 90 minutes he spent on stage with them (see live blog here) but one of the more interesting questions was about Apple's patent wars. Cupertino has been caught up in multiple patent suits in the years since the iPhone and iPad first launched. We know that Steve Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear war on Android, but how does Tim feel about all these law suits?

"Well, it is a pain in the ass," Cook responded when Kara asked him if patent suits had an impact on innovation. He goes on to say that Apple doesn't want to be the developer for the world. Cook said Apple wants other companies to develop their own products, not just take credit for Apple's work. When Walt Mossberg pointed out that Apple isn't just suing people but also getting sued, Tim Cook said that was different.

"The vast majority of those are on standards-essential patents. This is an area where the patent system is broken today," he explained, adding that no one should be able to get a patent based on a standards-essential patent. "It's kind of gotten crazy," he's quoted as saying. "It's not going to stop us from innovating, but it's overhead. It’s overhead that I wish didn't exist."

Tim Cook certainly isn't the first to criticize the patent system, which many people believe is fundamentally flawed and attracts so-called patent trolls. Last fall Dyson founder Sir James Dyson said the system was quite a good one when it was designed but described it as out-dated.

"It needs to change. Practices like patent trolling, where you go around buying up other people's patents and use them either aggressively or defensively, I think that's very bad practice," he said last year. Dyson went on to say that if they don't protect people who are investing time, money, thought and creativity into inventing new products or technologies, people won't want to anymore.

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