Is Apple Supporting a Patent Troll?

Guest_Jim_* - December 13, 2011 12:04PM in Copyright Infringers, General News

Many people would agree patent trolls (persons or entities that use broadly written patents to attack often innovating companies) are horrible for the technology industry. Several within the industry want the patent system to be improved to inhibit trolls. Now it seems one of the leaders in the tech industry is actually in league with a patent troll.

Digitude Innovations is a company that collects patents, and then shares the rights to them. So if a company transfers a patent to them, that company then has access to the patents Digitude has. If a company uses something allegedly covered under one of Digitude’s patents, they will then sue that company to force a licensing fee to be paid. Essentially, this company appears to be a professional patent troll.

TechCrunch has done some research and found that one of the companies to have transferred patents to Digitude Innovations is Apple. Interestingly, Apple did not transfer the patents directly to Digitude though, but through a shell company which appears to only exist as a name and address. There are some direct ties between the two companies though, as days before Digitude filed a suit with the International Trade Commission, ITC, two of the patents involved were owned by Apple. In the filing with the ITC, a "Digitude-Apple Cross License Agreement" is listed. The targets of this lawsuit include RIM, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, Amazon, and Nokia.

The obvious question is, "why?" Apple has not shown itself to be shy of suing competitors it believes are infringing it patents, so why give up patents to another company so they can go to court for them? If Apple was at some point targeted by Digitude though, and the patents were transferred by a court order, then why has no one heard about it? This seems quite strange and hopefully more details will come to light soon.