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Article posted Nov 19 2012, 8:49 PM Category: Science/Technology Source: BBC News Print

Phone patents: An absurd battle


"To get an idea of the size of the problem facing the likes of Apple and Samsung, consider this: O'Connor believes - based on estimates from patent firm RPX - that there are about 250,000 active patents in the United States that may have some relevance to the activities of mobile device manufacturers out of a total of about 1.5 million active patents. That means that about 17% of all active patents in the United States are potentially patents on smartphone technology.

But that only begins to scratch the surface. That's because, as O'Connor points out, most of these patents don't just make a single claim to a particular intellectual property right - on average each patent makes more like 20 such claims. That means that this collection of 250,000 patents actually describes about five million restrictions on what mobile device makers can do while they design a new model. Realistically an individual may be able to keep five, 10 or maybe 20 restrictions in mind when designing a new feature for a mobile device, but probably not 50 or 500. And five million? Not a chance."

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