Big Tech giants Apple and Google are losing legal battles over patents amid a recent litigation surge, risking hundreds of millions in potential costs

Tim Cook Jeff Bezos Sundar Pichai
(Left to right) Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Big Tech companies are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in patent lawsuits as the industry faces increased scrutiny from lawmakers for anti-competitive behavior.

On Friday, a jury decided that Apple should pay $300 million to Optis Wireless Technology in the companies' second patent trial, Reuters reported.

One day later, Sonos won a patent battle against Google, arguing that the Big Tech giant stole Sonos' smart-speaker technology and undercut their prices, according to a New York Times report.

Big Tech's losses this week are part of a recent spike in patent litigation. During the pandemic, patent lawsuits increased for the first time since 2015, according to Lex Machina's 2021 Patent Litigation Report. Google faced the highest number of patent lawsuits in the country, defending a total of 48 cases.

"It's no surprise that the number of patent lawsuits has increased during the middle of a pandemic. During times of economic uncertainty, companies tend to look for other ways to monetize their assets," Laura P. Masurovsky told the World Intellectual Property Review.

"I don't think it's a blip," she added. "I think it's indicative of a cyclical trend we've seen in patent litigation in the past."

Lex Machina 2021 Patent Litigation Report
Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Dell, and Huawei Technologies ranked among the top ten most active defendants by cases filed in 2020.

This March, a jury ruled that Apple should pay $308.5 million to Personalized Media Communications LLC for patent infringement. The iPhone maker told Reuters that "cases like this, brought by companies that don't make or sell any products, stifle innovation and ultimately harm consumers."

Apple supporters say companies like PMC and Optis are "patent trolls," a term used to describe companies using patents as legal weapons, as opposed to a means of product innovation.

On Friday, Apple released a similar statement, saying "Optis makes no products and its sole business is to sue companies using patents they accumulate. We will continue to defend against their attempts to extract unreasonable payments for patents they acquire."

Companies on the other side of Big Tech's recent patent lawsuits think differently, saying that larger companies use their leverage to "squeeze" competitors.

On Saturday, a judge ruled that Google infringed on five of Sonos' patents - if the preliminary ruling is upheld, products like Google Home and Pixel smartphones could be banned from import.

"This decision re-affirms the strength and breadth of our portfolio, marking a promising milestone in our long-term pursuit to defend our innovation against misappropriation by Big Tech monopolies," Eddie Lazarus, Sonos' chief legal officer, said in a statement.

Sonos executives also said Amazon Echo products copied Sonos technology, The New York Times reported. Amazon denies these claims.

"We are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith, a Google spokesperson told the Times. "We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously."

Google, Apple, and Amazon did not respond immediately to Insider's request for comment on this story.

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