It’s not every day that Apple and Samsung can find grounds for cooperation, but even these arch rivals can agree about stomping on a patent troll.
The two companies managed to convince a federal court to rule invalid a patent related to mobile hotspots created by smartphones. The patent had been held by a company that only used it to sue other companies.
IXI IP claimed it was owed licensing fees from Apple, Samsung, and other phone makers because it had a patent on the entire concept of a mobile hotspot. Patent number 7,039,033 to be specific: “System, device and computer readable medium for providing a managed wireless network using short-range radio signals.”
Lawyers for the phone makers were able to convince the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that the hotspot patent should never have been awarded because it wasn’t for an original idea. They showed that the idea for a mobile hotspot had already been described in a book published before the patent filing. That’s the simple description. The legalese is a lot more complex.
How a troll got a hotspot patent
IXI IP is generally described as a “patent troll,” as it’s a company that does no research and produces no products. Similar companies aggregate patents, generally by buying them, and then use these to sue other companies for licensing fees.
They are a symptom of a problem with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The number of patent filings has increased dramatically, while the budget of this government agency has not. That leads to patents being awarded when they really shouldn’t.
Sometimes these are what’s called “obvious” patents. That was the case with IXI IP’s hotspot one. That’s when a patent is awarded to a company or individual for an idea that’s already widely known.