Using patented materials without authorization is a serious offense that can cost infringing parties money, resources and time they would likely have preferred to put toward their business and operations. And in some cases, these costs are enormous.
For instance, a jury recently awarded $300 million to a company claiming tech giant Apple infringed on five of their patents.
Five patents, millions of dollars in damages
According to reports, Optis Wireless Technology claimed that Apple infringed on five patents owned by Optis. The patents were originally owned by other companies like LG and Samsung but later acquired by Optis, an intellectual property management firm. An Apple spokesperson has accused the company of collecting patents just to extract unreasonable payments.
Optis and its sister companies Optis Wireless Technology, Optis Cellular Technology, Unwired Planet and Unwired Planet International are non-product-producing entities that can generate revenue from collecting and enforcing patents. Regardless, Optis legally holds the patents in question, and they have the right to enforce their rights on any infringer — including Apple.
This is the second time this case has gone before a jury. The first time, a jury awarded Optis $506 million. However, a Texas judge ordered a new trial, instructing the new jury to focus only on damages consistent with the fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory standards of intellectual property licensing. This time, the jury awarded $300 million in royalties to Optis, though Apple says it plans to fight the decision.
What can you learn from this case?
You may not run one of the world’s largest or best-known companies, but there is plenty that all types of business owners can learn from this case.
First, remember that no company is exempt from complying with intellectual property laws, from small startups to international corporations. And even though larger entities have more resources than small businesses to fight these types of claims in court, they are subject to the same laws and protections.
Additionally, remember that whether a party infringed on a patent may not be the issue; calculating fair and reasonable damages could be. Whatever the claim may involve, legal guidance and counsel can be essential.
Patents are highly valuable to owners, and they warrant aggressive protection efforts when someone uses patented material without permission.