Oppo and OnePlus are currently prohibited from selling their phones in Germany on an official basis, as they are currently only sold through third parties. This is reminiscent of previous patent disputes, such as Apple vs. Samsung, and we are enough to speculate whether the patent war is making a comeback?
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I aspire to read new devices and technologies every day. Some companies, on the other hand, tend to be less excited about some of their competitors' latest developments when they realize that another manufacturer has taken advantage of their own technologies.
That's right, today is the day to discuss patent disputes. In particular, the fact that Oppo and OnePlus are currently prohibited from selling or promoting their smartphones in Germany. This is a conflict that may extend to other manufacturers as well as regions.
Nokia vs. Oppo is a current patent dispute.
Patent disputes arise always, not just among IT organizations. Take Curevac vs. BionTech, who are manufacturers of coronavirus vaccines in Germany. Curevac wants to sue BionTech and has filed a lawsuit against the latter in the United States. BionTech finally turned the tables and filed a patent complaint in the United States.
According to Sonos and Google, technology firms aren't all that different; they're in a 'war' over various patents for the first time in 2020, and the tech giant adapted its products. In 2022, the courts found that Google had infected five Sonos patents, and the company changed its speakers.
In the meantime, a counterattack is underway, and Google has now accusedSonos of violating several patents. It's also about wireless charging and the recognition of keywords, i.e. activation words for voice assistants.
The most popular at the moment is the patent dispute between Nokia and Oppo. Originally, both companies agreed upon a licensing fee, which the licensee then pays out, and everything is unky dory! The patent agreement has since expired, and Nokia has demanded a fee of 2.50 per smartphone for an extension.
The German patent law is particularly stringent. One particular feature is that licenses must be valid worldwide. It's simple math: Oppo sells 200 million phones worldwide, but only one percent of them in Germany. Despite the fact, the license fee must be paid for all 200 million devices, which would be equivalent to half a billion dollars.
OnePlus belongs to Oppo and we see a flaw on both sides in the smartphone segment. Retailers like Amazon or Saturn are permitted to sell off their stocks as normal.
Nokia is also suing in the United Kingdom, France, and other European countries, according to reports. Vivo, a subsidiary of the BBK Group like Oppo and OnePlus, may follow suit.
Apple vs. Samsung: A look back in the past
If you've been following smartphone development for a few years, you'll understand that it's wrong when two manufacturers go at each other's throats. This millennium, there have been many battles and patent licensing in the smartphone market, especially in the last decade.
The greatest patent spectacle, however, was certainly the battle between Apple and Samsung! The fun started in 2011 and lasted many years until a conclusion was reached in 2018. It was first about the famous "rounded corners," followed by pinch-to-zoom, the scrolling effect, and more.
And, quite honestly, if we look at the following picture, we can already see a tiny bit of similarity between the original and the 'impostor' here and there, right?
Apple might have fought harder if it had been an unknown, small business. Partially based on leaked photographs, this case was quickly identified as the primary adversary as it was not just about money and law!
Both companies suffered a reputational damage. However, Apple suffered even more when they went to the extreme and sued a business in Bonn called "Apfelkind," or Pear Technologies, whose logo is a stylized pear.
A patent storm is brewing in the United States, according to one look at the state of Georgia...
Why are we so interested in discussing this matter in such depth? I consider the patent razor's dance to be a dangerous one. Yes, of course it is correct that ideas should not be taken and that good ideas should be rewarded in the form of royalties, where appropriate. However, we also live in a world in which "big tech" is buying up start-ups or squeezing them out of the market.
The latter occurs when it comes to patent law. In particular, small businesses in the United States are unable to protect their inventions due to states that are quite gentle in dealing with patent violations. Google, Apple, and others have hordes of lawyers and sufficient financial resources to pay them.
When I say that I see a new patent storm brewing, it isn't necessarily because big corporations like Oppo and Nokia are battling each other. Rather, there might be a substantial shift in patent law in the United States that will only affect smaller businesses. It is about a bill that was introduced by several senators there and was dubbed the "Patent Trial and Appeal Board Reform Act."
Google and Apple have been sued many times in patent litigation, and Apple alone has had to pay huge sums several times (Optis, $300 million, and VimetX, $570 million). But there is a different reality: companies often pay less for a fine than to pay a substantially higher license fee.
According to the Harvard Business Review, Apple and its kin may be able to get a lot easier in the future. Companies are now considering a different approach by changing the patent law. If the bill is passed, intellectual property protection would be weakened.
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), established in 2011, is a legal body similar to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Apparently, this court is designed to help settle patent disputes cheaply and swiftly.
The tech giants with a huge amount of money may now contest patents not only in court, but also at the PTAB. In practice, this often means that the corporations are sued by smaller corporations - and the tech giants apply to the PTAB to have these patents terminated! In total, 84 percent of patents have been declared at least partially invalid!
The evidence requirements in this chamber are less stringent than in court, and corporations may testify many times. It's most certainly to do with the fact that patent holders must raise around $500,000 per challenge.
The intention is now to relax some of the "little guys" protections. New opportunities are opening up for the legal staff of tech firms, according to the Harvard Business Review!
If the courts succeed in weakened the US intellectual property protection system, the consequences might be catastrophic for tens of thousands of small, innovative businesses, with devastating effects on the whole economy.
What can we learn from this?
If this happens, the power of the big players will be further cemented, and the potential of new, innovative businesses will be severely harmed. Not only does this make an already uneven battle more dangerous, but it also guarantees less innovation.
While we are negotiating these patent disputes between the media industry and the backrooms of Washington, tech lobbyists are making sure that small businesses have little or no chance of winning a lawsuit. Is it true, then, that you buy the iPhone anyway, and not the Android phone from an unknown manufacturer? Yes, it is. At the moment, three companies are attempting to talk again.
In any case, I can imagine that the Oppo lockout will be the start of many more patent disputes. And I'm afraid that innovation will be the greatest victim. Do you see it differently? if so, please comment below.