At a conference at Stanford University today, Winston & Stawn's Vice Chair of Intellectual Property Michael Brody spoke about patent trolls during a presentation, detailing the harm they present to companies and numbers related to them from the past few years. Although patent trolls target a variety of companies, Apple, HP, and Samsung have become the most common targets, with Apple being at the top.
A patent troll is officially known as a non-practicing entity, and represents those who patent technologies or buy patent portfolios and then use them against companies in lawsuits, the goal being a settlement and/or licensing fees.
According to the numbers, Apple was sued by patent trolls only 18 times in 2008, lower than HP's 27 lawsuits from the same year. That number increased for Apple steadily over the years, however, with 2012 bringing about 44 suits from patent trolls attempting to score a settlement, a much larger number than HP's 19 from the same year.
Samsung, meanwhile, holds steady in the third position with only 12 lawsuits from patent trolls in 2008, decreasing by a factor of two in 2009 and then climbing steadily to reach 37 in 2012. Over a five year period, the numbers factor out to 165 lawsuits by NPE's against Apple, 143 against HP, and 123 against Samsung.
Quite a few companies are commonly targeted, however, with the rest in the top category being (in order): Dell, Sony, AT&T, HTC, LG, Microsoft, and Amazon.com. Google comes in down at #12 and Motorola Mobility comes in at #20. While big-name businesses are frequent targets - and for obvious reasons - most lawsuits from patent trolls, about 63-percent, are aimed at companies that pull in less than $100 million annually.