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Patents Emerge as Significant Tech Strategy

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Technology companies' patent practices have shifted from using them to defend their own inventions to deploying them as an important part of competitive strategies in the mobile market.

Companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google are being sued and issuing counter suits for various types of technology. For example, Microsoft has as many as 2,000 patents that are at issue over smartphone and tablet technologies. Microsoft already has reached licensing agreements with Samsung, HTC, and Acer, which together hold more than 50 percent of the U.S. Android smartphone market share by units.

Based on royalties of $3 to $6 per device, Microsoft will receive about $444 million in fiscal year 2012 from Android-based device makers with whom it has negotiated agreements, according to Goldman Sachs.

Because the mobile market is still so new, companies are "fighting it out in any way they can," with products, marketing, and patent portfolios, says University of Washington professor Andrew Torrance. He compares the battle over mobile computing patents to the earlier days of the personal computer. "I think we're in the early stages of a similar battle in mobile computing, which will eventually settle down like it did with PC computing," Torrance says.

From Seattle Times
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