Why tech patents have become an arms race

It is only three months into 2010 and already we are surrounded by patent infringement cases. But why has the number of suits shot up in recent times?

This means many companies apply for patents just for the sake of having them ready for legal battles.

"It is a bit of an arms race," added Robertson. "What often happens is that large companies build patent portfolios to use for offensive purposes and also defensive purposes."

He added: "So what you get is one company threatening another with patent litigation and the company that is threatened might be able to fire back and say 'Well, if you are going to raise this issue, we will bring up this other patent that we have that we think your other technology might be infringing'."

"That might be enough of a deterrent to get the company to back down," he continued.

Although Robertson claimed many in the US were unhappy with the state of the patent system, but he couldn't see it changing in the near future.

"A lot of them don't like the way that it operates but they are locked into [the] arms race and it would be madness for a large technology company to turn its back on the way the system operates and to stop trying to patent everything in sight," he said

"You can't blame Apple [for example] for getting patents on gestures if the patent office will give them to it. You could perhaps blame Apple for using some of the patents in litigation but I can't criticise a company for building up a defensive patent portfolio. There is good sense in doing so."

Robertson concluded: "It's the way that game is played and unfortunately whilst things are the way they are, then it will continue to be an unpleasant game."

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