U.K. courts are a battleground for the global technology patent wars as intellectual property claims nearly tripled last year, according to a report by law firm EMW Law LLP.
There were 183 new patent and registered design claims filed in the U.K. in 2011, the highest number in more than five years, as firms seek to maintain their advantage over competitors in a difficult economic climate, EMW said. There were 65 similar claims filed in 2010.
“Some technology businesses have amassed a huge war chest of patents, which they can use to swamp the competition with patent infringement claims,” said Mark Finn, IP law principal at EMW. “Even if the claim doesn’t stick and is eventually rejected by the courts, it can still keep rivals’ products off the market for long enough to gain a competitive advantage.”
Smartphone makers including Apple Inc. (AAPL:US), Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), Nokia Oyj (NOK1V) and HTC Corp. (2498) have filed dozens of suits against each other in the U.K. over the last two years as part of a global litigation strategy in the mobile-device market that Bloomberg Industries said was $312 billion last year. The rise in IP litigation comes as the U.K. economy shrank the most in three years, forcing companies to fight “for every edge they can find,” Finn said.
Companies in patent-heavy industries look for “any way” to maintain their advantage, Finn said.
Finn said companies rush to sue before the disputed product establishes itself in the country, because U.K. patent courts may take a year to reach a judgment.
“IP litigation often isn’t just about compensation for claimants,” Finn said. “It’s a vital tool for defending profits and market share.”
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