Zombie Patents Cause Havoc Again

Apple are famous for their stringent (and some might say overzealous) enforcement of IP and patents, but they’re not the only people who are capable to fire a lawsuit at anyone they possibly can.

A Delaware company has acquired an old IP from BT, and is now aiming the lawsuit gun at just about every single mobile company you can think of.

Apple, HTC, LG, NEC, Motorola, Sony and many more are targets in the case, and it’s all to do with this:

That is US Patent 5,491,834, and it details a technique used by phones to decide whether to connect to a different mast.

BT filed the patent back in 1993, and are still listed as being in control of it – but the lawsuit brought by Steelhead (the company in question) assures all involved that the company have full rights of recover, and will be reclaiming what they believe is rightfully theirs (BT have stated that they are nothing to do with the lawsuit and will not be claiming any money from Steelhead).

For those wondering how this can happen, the simple version is this: Patents have to be renewed by the company who initially files them – and if they do not, the IP becomes available to others. Also, if a company purchases another, they will usually receive the IPs belonging to that company as well – and sometimes they will shed patents they don’t require.

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