Skewed Priorities: Apple and Google Spent More on Patents Last Year Than They Did on R&D

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We live in a world where enormous corporations have backed themselves into a legal corner. Essentially, companies like Google and Apple religiously patent anything and everything they can in order to avoid lawsuits. The theory is that if they create a large enough stable of patents, they’ll be able to curtail the majority of disputes. It’s also rather expensive to go about doing this. Last year, Apple and Google spent more on patents than they did on research and development. This is the first time this has happened, but it’s not likely to be the last.

In effect, this means that the two tech giants spent more money attempting to safeguard, defend, and patent their existing intellectual property than they did on creating new intellectual property. The ramifications of this precedent are somewhat horrifying. Rather than continuing to innovate and design new and better things, companies like Apple and Google are apparently starting to focus more on the burden of their existing work. It’s the maintenance, essentially, that hurts.

It also doesn’t help that the system is conducive to this kind of behavior. If these actions weren’t in the best interests of both companies, neither would have likely initiated them. According to a Stanford University analysis cited by the New York Times, “$20 billion was spent on patent litigation and patent purchases in the last two years” within the smartphone industry alone.

This kind of tomfoolery is simply unsustainable. Companies will continue to feed money into litigation for little to no reason, with the only impact being to further stymie innovation at companies outside the privileged circle. History’s just repeating itself on a technological scale.

(The New York Times via reddit, image via Hatmanu Florin)

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