Breakingviews

Europe could edge past U.S. in race to courthouse

December 17, 2014

New rules and bank scandals boost financial fraud and class-action filings in Britain. Patent combatants flock to German judges. And spats over failed investments clog EU courts. The upshot: a lawsuit boom that may topple America as the world’s business litigation capital.

Merck gives in to M&A frenzy risk assessment

December 9, 2014

Just hours after unveiling its $8.4 bln acquisition of Cubist, a judge invalidated patents owned by the antibiotics maker. Potential lost sales are reflected in the billions erased from Merck’s market value. The known liability was appraised through a rose-colored merger prism.

Supremes ride shotgun with Tesla down open road

June 19, 2014

The top U.S. court unanimously ruled that abstract ideas even if run through a computer can be freely adapted. Elon Musk’s electric carmaker also just opened up its technology. Both decisions spread an important message to the vicious world of patent fighting: share, don’t hoard.

Twitter may grow fat and happy on low-patent diet

November 1, 2013

The soon-to-IPO social network has an incredibly slim IP portfolio. Its nine patents may leave Twitter vulnerable to lawsuits and light on proven assets. But a policy of allowing engineers control over their inventions speeds innovation, lures top talent and cuts legal costs.

U.S. justices square the helix on gene patents

June 13, 2013

The Supreme Court ruled that companies can hold exclusive rights to synthetic human genes, but not naturally occurring ones. That allows biotech businesses to reap rewards for their work without stifling the research of others. The decision serves science, industry and the law.

Apple patent case exposes trade arbiter’s flaws

June 5, 2013

A ban on U.S. imports of older iPhones is a big win for rival Samsung — and yet another example of the International Trade Commission being too quick to block products on dubious grounds. President Obama plans to tighten ITC standards. He could start by nixing the Apple ruling.

Google shooting blanks in smartphone patent wars

May 2, 2013

Buying Motorola and its cache of inventions was meant to shield the search giant’s Android operating system from legal attack. But authorities are defusing the patent arsenal, saying the underlying technology must be shared on fair terms. Google’s losses are innovation’s gain.

Apple may bury hatchet with Google just not yet

August 31, 2012

Apple may bury the hatchet with Google - just not quite yet. It's no shock their chiefs, Tim Cook and Larry Page, are talking. The iPhone maker's sweeping U.S. patent win over Samsung is a blow to the search giant, too. But the rivals' clashing business models make peace difficult.

Oracle suit gives Google a chance not to be evil

May 15, 2012

The search giant has been thumped on privacy, antitrust and governance grounds. But it looks almost virtuous in a patent spat with troll-like Oracle. Investors and watchdogs may still have beefs, but for now Google can milk its role as defender of software’s right to be free.

Twitter gives peace a chance in patent wars

April 19, 2012

The social network will allow engineer-inventors to veto lawsuits against alleged infringers. That’s a model for curbing the expensive legal salvos that Apple, Microsoft and others lob just to slow each other down. If the rest of tech one day follows, innovation could benefit.