There’s a Secret War on Apple Few Know About

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Robert Galbraith / REUTERS

In a rare public disclosure, Apple has offered some illuminating details about its ongoing battle with patent assertion entities, more commonly known as patent trolls. In a public comment to the Federal Trade Commission for an upcoming study on patent troll activities, the tech giant revealed that it has been sued by patent trolls 92 times in the last three years. Apple claims it is their favorite target.

So-called trolls purchase patents on the cheap and then sue companies like Apple when they announce products that use a similar technology. According to Apple, this hurts innovation. “The purpose of the patent law is to promote progress in the useful arts,” Apple said in its public comment. “The gap between a PAE’s acquisition price and its ultimate demand suggests that something other than the patent’s contribution to innovation and progress is driving PAEs’ patent valuation.”

Typically, Apple settles out of court with such entities because of the high cost of litigation. Apple revealed that of the 92 patent lawsuits it’s dealt with in the last three years, 51 were settled while 6 ended ended with either an Apple victory or the plaintiff dropping the case. The other 35 cases remain unresolved. A suit against Apple by a patent assertion entity often seeks more than $10 million and can cost Apple $3 to $4 million in legal fees, according to an amicus brief the company filed in an upcoming Supreme Court case on patent fees. The content of these documents was first reported by The Chicago Tribune.

Apple, of course, is no stranger to protecting its own patents. The company famously sued Samsung over its Galaxy phone, claiming that the device violated patents Apple made us of for the iPhone.