Spansion, a maker of flash memory chips, filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung earlier this month. Spansion and Samsung are just adding fuel to the already heated Smartphone patent wars raging in this country.
Smartphone Patent Wars Heating Up!
Apple, Google, Motorola, RIM BlackBerry, Nokia, HTC, and Microsoft are all in the middle of the fray. It is no wonder patent wars are heating up. There are billions of dollars at stake. Nokia has even taken their war with Apple to the International Trade Commission, which could result in the iPhone being banned from being imported into the United States if Nokia prevails.
Why IS there a Smartphone war? According to an article by Charles Arthur, Guardian.co.uk, only 28% of cell phone users in the U.S. and Europe have Smartphones. Worldwide, cell phone users are predicted to climb to 5 Billion users by the end of 2010. This means that the possibility for potential sales for upgrades is enormous. No wonder there is a war. Economics and religion are the two big motivators in the world. Arthur reports that Guy Burkill at Three New Square, one of the UK’s leading patent barristers who specializes in telecoms-related patents, says that with worldwide sales of mobiles passing 1 billion units a year, “the stakes are enormous – fractions of a penny per handset are worth fighting over.”
Be banned or pay a steep penalty? With so many patent lawsuits swirling through the courts, it is hard to even distinguish all the players in the legal battles, or who is buddied up on which team. What will be the outcome? It is unlikely that Google’s Android system will be banned. With so many Smartphones using the Android OS, Google will have to pay the fee if they lose the lawsuit. (Oracle filed a suit against Google alleging patent infringements over Java which Oracle acquired when they bought Sun.) The same is true with Nokia and Apple. If Apple wins, Nokia will have to pay fines. Another solution to the Apple-Nokia war would be for Apple to just buy out Nokia as part of the deal.
Which Smartphone OS will win? With all the issues facing the Android OS and Apple, the Windows Phone may win out after all. Microsoft provides a patent guarantee that assures vendors predictable licensing costs. Regardless of the outcome, it will likely be years before any of it affects the market. We all know how tedious and time consuming cases before the courts can be. Whatever the outcome, you can bet the farm that big money will change hands several times before all this is over.