Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There are 250,000 patents impacting smartphones

I'll keep this one short and sweet, because I've been writing about the topic of patents and smartphones a fair amount lately. But I thought this piece from Techdirt did an excellent job of illustrating my recent points, and I'd be remiss if I didn't share it here.
A new analysis shows just how insane the patent thicket is today. Done by "defensive" patent aggregator RPX..., the estimate is that a stunning 250,000 active patents today impact smartphones. 250,000. As the article notes that's one in six active patents today -- and for an industry that is certainly less than 1% of US GDP. As a comparison, the pharma industry, often put forth (inaccurately, in my opinion) as an area where patents make sense, has accounted for a little over 6% of US patents over the past 15 years. Also, there's this: 
... in the pharmaceutical industry, there are approximately 46.8 patents per every 1,000 jobs, whereas in the computer and peripherals equipment sector, there are 277.5 patents per 1,000 jobs. Even the semiconductor industry, known for its highly complex products, has a patent/job ratio of 111.6 patents per 1,000 jobs -- approximately 40% the rate of patents to jobs as the computer and peripherals market. 
It definitely appears that there's something of a "bubble" going on around smartphone patents -- which is what happens when you have a hot emerging area, combined with ridiculously broad patents. It also makes for an astounding minefield for anyone new who wants to enter the space, especially if you don't have a massive war chest to license or fight in court.
Wow. I'm not sure what else to add here, except to say that Apple has very definitely contributed to this growing bubble. Obviously, though, they're not alone.


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