Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Android as a lawsuit magnet

July 15, 2012: 7:03 PM ET

Not just patent trolls, but companies with a combined worth of over $1 trillion have filed IP suits

FORTUNE -- FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller used the discovery Friday that Fujifilm has filed a patent infringement suit against Google (GOOG) subsidiary Motorola Mobility to ask why it is that Android attracts so many intellectual property lawsuits.

He's not talking about patent trolls. They sue everybody, including Apple (AAPL).

He's talking about publicly traded companies with multibillion dollar market caps. Fujifilm is the seventh to file a patent infringement suit against Android, joining Apple (market cap: $565.68 billion), Oracle (ORCL; $144.42 billion), Microsoft (MSFT; $246.9 billion), Gemalto ($6.52), British Telecom (BT; $27.02 billion) and Nokia (NOK; $6.89 billion).

With Fujifilm ($8.47 billion), that's a total combined market cap of $1.06 trillion. Google's market cap, by comparison, is $188 billion.

But the valuation of Google's enemies is not Mueller's point. It's the fact that it has made so many.

"The companies who claim that Google's Android infringes on their intellectual property are too diverse to believe in a conspiracy," he writes.

By contrast, except for reactive or pre-emptive lawsuits filed by Android device makers, Apple has been sued in recent years by only two large companies -- Kodak (EKDKQ) and Nokia -- and the Nokia suit was settled last year.

"Does [Apple] do a better job at steering clear of infringement than Google does?," Mueller asks. "Does it do a better job at working out license deals or non-aggression pacts with others in the industry? Honestly, I don't know what Apple does because they obviously don't tell the public what their dealings with other industry players are like. But whatever they do, they show that the commercial success of a platform is only one of the relevant factors. Android's IP issues are not simply a function of its market share. There must be some more fundamental problems."

As an Android user, Mueller says he is rooting for Google to address its problems more effectively. But based on its executives' public statements, he suspects they're in a state of IP denial.

It's a provocative piece. You can read it here.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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