Litigation: The Next Killer Ap?

Apple v. Samsung.

Cisco v. Tivo.

The EU v. Intel.

The lawsuits are piling up as tech heavies line up against each other and, in some cases, nations or even larger economic blocs.

If you are a market share leader, fending off (or filing) lawsuits is routine.

Apple claimed a victory in the US, where courts have banned Samsung’s Nexus smartphone and Galaxy Tab 10.1 after Apple complained of patent infringement. But Apple’s record on (in?) its home court hasn’t extended abroad. British courts have ruled HTC’s mobile devices did not infringe four of Apple’s touchscreen patents, China courts found for a nearly bankrupt company that claimed ownership of the iPad trademark, and Italian regulators have opened hearings over the company’s failure to meet domestic warranty laws.

As companies sue and countersue over technology that becomes ever more complicated, not only are the courts tied up by the endless legal maneuvering, but company engineers get dragged into the fray as well.

So too, it should be mentioned, do governments. But while the US debates measures that would ramp its anti-counterfeiting laws, Europe is taking the opposite approach. The European Parliament yesterday overwhelmingly rejected adoption of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, siding with critics who claimed the bill put too much power in the hands of bureaucrats. “With companies trying to gain any advantage within a fiercely competitive landscape, an increasingly litigious environment seems to be becoming a reality most companies need to get comfortable with going forward,” opined Sherri Scribner, a senior analyst with Deutsche Bank.

Still, as tech companies rely as much on the courts as the computer to wage their market share wars, one wonders: Will the next generation of engineers be pressed into battle to design products … or defend them?


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About Mike

Mike Buetow is editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He is also vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversees all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 20 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow