Know Your Industry Leaders: Patent Litigation

Build a better mousetrap, the saying goes, and the world will beat a path to your door. But it’s no use building a better mousetrap if somebody else steals your design and unfairly copies it. In the business world, whether in manufacturing pharmaceuticals, developing high technology, or just simply keeping up with the competition, protecting intellectual property is critical to holding on to market share and increasing profitability.

Using the Audit Analytics litigation database to track patent cases, we compared patent activity for some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical and computer manufacturing industries.* The tables below show the five companies involved in the most patent litigation cases within their respective industries, and the percentage of patent cases in that industry for which they are involved (as a plaintiff or defendant).

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It’s no surprise that Apple, one of the biggest innovators of the last ten years and notoriously protective of its intellectual property, has been involved in 14.11% of computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing patent cases.  Apple’s latest battles with Samsung have drawn the attention of the media and could impact who will be the top company in the smartphone/tablet market in the future.  A recent court ruling by the International Trade Commission that would ban the import of certain iPhone and iPad models due to infringements on Samsung’s standard-essential patents was recently vetoed by President Obama.  This decision comes after Apple was awarded $1.05 Billion in a 2012 case against Samsung for violating patents surrounding the iPhone’s look and features.  According to recent litigation between the two, Samsung’s infringing products could even be subject to an import ban.

Trailing Apple, other big industry names like Dell, HP, Cisco, and Nokia round out the top five and make up a significant percentage of the total patent cases in the industry; of the 83 computer manufacturing companies that have been involved in patent cases over the last ten years, these five companies have been named in an incredible 43% of 659 cases.

The pharmaceutical industry is a bit more diverse. Johnson & Johnson leads the way with 4.68% of all industry patent cases, followed closely by Teva Pharmaceuticals, Abbot Labs, Pfizer, and Mylan Labs. Still, out of 219 pharmaceutical companies involved in 1623 patent cases, the top 5 account for more than 20%.

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So are these market leaders so successful because they are fierce litigators, or do they need to be fierce litigators because they are so successful? Whichever is the case, innovators beware: the mob beating a path to your door might just be a mob of lawyers.

* – Using NAICS Industry codes 3254 Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing, and 3341 Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing.