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.

U.S. patent law mission creep needs to be reversed

November 17, 2011

The system is supposed to reward inventors but not stifle innovation. Fuzzy concepts like the interpretation of data aren’t protected. Yet one firm says it owns a way to read medical tests. The U.S. Supreme Court has a chance to serve the law’s original intent by disagreeing.

Thermostat spat puts old heat on new cool

February 9, 2012

Honeywell says Nest Labs stole its ideas, though some seem obvious. True or not, the upstart outdid the old-line firm with a temperature controller of Apple-like elegance. When new companies produce something better, older ones should flex competitive muscles before legal ones.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.