Big Player Patent Battles Trickle Down to Everyone

While IP battles might not concern lesser players, the ones among the tech titans hurt us all by creating an atmosphere of uncertainty in the market.

A recent survey found that contrary to popular perception, only 20 percent of respondents felt that protecting IP rights was a big driver of their technology purchases.

When you look around at the news these days, you know that IP law is having a big impact on how big companies are spending their money. It seems that every company is playing defense with patents instead of taking the time innovate. High profile purchases such as Google buying Motorola Mobility was probably driven more by the company’s patent cache more than its technology holdings.

Last month Facebook bought a bunch of patents from Microsoft who had spent a billion dollars to buy them from AOL.

And on and on it goes.

Yet a survey conducted by Morrison & Foerster and 451 Research found that almost half of respondents (47 percent) didn’t consider patent holdings at all when making a technology acquisition decision. Of course the flip side of that, means a lot do.

Regardless, it seems that the patent wars are being fought at the highest levels of the technology sector among the mighty titans of the industry including Facebook, Apple, Google and Microsoft (not to mention Oracle). These companies in particular are always looking for leverage on the others, not content to battle it out in the marketplace where it matters.

What does it matter to IT? It matters because these lawsuits create uncertainty in the marketplace, which is of course the intended goal. Win or lose, if you create confusion, you might prevent IT from making a quick decision about whether to go with a cloud, open source or one proprietary solution over another.

The survey results are telling only to the extent they show that what concerns the titans in a deal, might not be the same thing that concerns you at a smaller company. As a CIO or IT pro, you just want to straight answers to simple questions such as, ‘If I use Java, and am I suddenly going to be in Oracle’s cross-hairs?’

Unfortunately, instead of leaving it to the market to decide these questions, we now have battles going on inside court where as you know anything can happen, or just as bad left to legislators who can’t get their own email, yet are making technology decisions that have a huge impact on you and your company.

While the survey might have found that IP interests don’t have impact on everyone’s M&A activity, the fact that the largest companies are clearly taking this into consideration has a huge impact on the rest of the market — spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt better than any misinformation campaign ever could.

Photo by duncan1890 | iStock Photo.

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