While the possibility that Android, a beloved smartphone institution, could be sued out of existence by Apple, Microsoft, it is alarming to many, this incident in many ways serves most of all to illustrate much broader problems with the U.S. intellectual property system.
Companies in the U.S. are laying claim to increasingly generic intellectual property and using that IP as instrument not to innovate, but to litigate. The street runs two ways in most cases — often times IP lawsuits are followed by IP counter suits. But often one player in the market is using IP as the general bully, while the other is trying to defend itself.
Many argue the U.S. desperately needs intellectual property reform. But the federal government under both former President George W. Bush (R) and under President Barack Obama (D) has been slow to act.
The Nortel sale should offer a key signal to the market. If the federal government blocks it, it may be a sign that the era of using IP as an offensive weapon is coming to an end. On the other hand, if it’s approved without restriction, it will offer a virtual blueprint of how to defeat your competitor. If the latter scenario plays out consumers may find themselves in an odd market where it’s not the competitor with the best products that wins, but the company with the best lawyers and patent portfolio.
Personally, knowing Google as I do, I think they may well have something up their cuff, watch the space.