Last Year, Google & Apple Spent More On Patents Than On R&D

from the that's-not-a-good-sign dept

We’ve already written about the NY Times’ big article on our disastrous patent system, but there was one line in the article that deserves to be called out with a separate post. As almost an aside, the article notes how much Google and Apple are spending on patent related issues these days:

Last year, for the first time, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and unusually big-dollar patent purchases exceeded spending on research and development of new products, according to public filings.

That seems like a pretty big problem, and one we should all be concerned about. Now, both Apple and Google are cash rich companies, so they can spend a lot on patent issues, but all of that is money that isn’t going into actual innovation or developing new products. And, for smaller companies, it’s much worse — since basically all of them don’t have the kind of cash reserves we’re talking about with Google and Apple. If even these big companies are spending more on patents than on R&D, can’t we agree that the system is completely broken?

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Companies: apple, google

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Comments on “Last Year, Google & Apple Spent More On Patents Than On R&D”

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Zakida Paul says:

This is very sad. If companies are truly innovative, their budget for R&D should totally eclipse that of legal.

Will this knowledge make a blind bit of difference to the law makers? Will it prompt law makers to see that the patent system is broken beyond repair? No it won’t, because the only thing that matters is dollar signs and the patent industry is a billion dollar industry.

Honestly, I believe the only solution at this point is to rip the whole system out and start from scratch.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

*wink wink*

Very well, I have chosen to break the code of silence we time travelers share.

You see, the patent system exists in its present monstrosity form in order to save the world. It was carefully crafted over 150 years to achieve exactly this effect.

Why, you say? In the future, the world was destroyed by runaway rampant research, innovation, creativity.

It was horrible. You’d buy a stereo hifi pizza for breakfast and then a skateboard taco for lunch. Nobody was safe.

One day, a man name Victor Chipmunk Merkenholt discovered “Merkenholt radiation”–a product of research, innovation, creativity; called RIC for short.

Normally, Merkenholt radiation exists in such minute quantities as to be harmless and largely undetectable. Usually fading away into the background before any sizable amount built up, but due to the horrible dangers of runaway RIC the levels were reaching lethal.

Law makers tried to put a halt to RIC–but how do you stop something which anybody could do on their holographic printer and flat-space laboratory in their spare time? Nobody worked, they all just invented things to share with their friends.

The final step was taken… in order to stop RIC from destroying the world, men were sent to the past to sabotage the patent system. Now you know the truth.

It’s horrible, but it must be this way.


For the good of all mankind.

Jeremy says:

Proving once and for all that no matter how innovative you are...

Are you saying the 1% consists of only lawyers fighting over everyone else’s creativity?

I’m not disputing that there are wealthy that loot from the creative among us, I’m disputing that the wealthiest among us are non-creative jackasses that hold others down.

Also, I confess I was wrong, and Ayn was technically wrong. She predicted that government would be used to enact this new way of business, when it seems to be private entities abusing the legal system to do it.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Proving once and for all that no matter how innovative you are...

…and that’s a pretty big “technically” to be wrong about, since she also predicted that private enterprise would magically save us from the big bad government abuses. Instead, what we’re seeing is private enterprise doing the abusing, and the only entity with the power to fix it is the government, by fixing the broken laws that support this system.

TLDR: Ayn Rand was completely, fundamentally wrong about just about everything.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

How much lobbying is being done to get rid of patents?

So what is the current lobbying effort to get rid of patents? What big companies (e.g., Apple, Google) are paying to change the system? I don’t have that info in front of me and figured one of you would probably have it.

The article said this, “But to really make a difference, such ideas require the participation of large technology companies, and the incentives to cooperate are small.”

Jeff (profile) says:

Dear President Obama,

I realize this is reaching you via online, but I completely disagree with the many recent legislative moves that seem to take away basic rights. We do not need more laws that diminish common sense rights. Copyrights are mess, the patent system is in complete disarray, and government is bending to the will of the corporate world. This needs to stop now. Corporations are not people, they should not be able to influence Congress to pass laws that benefit themselves. Lobbying is destroying us from within.

Thanks for your consideration. It is time to rethink what technology has provided, and embrace its potential.


Anonymous Coward says:


How much did they spend the year before? The year before that? The year before that?

Just because they happen to be actually trying to enforce their patents this year doesn’t diminish the efforts made in the past, nor the efforts made today.

Only someone trying to make a point by misunderstanding the spending patterns and the costs involved would do that. WTG MIKE! I am shocked none of the sheeple saw this one for what it is.

You know, in the last 20 minutes, I spent more on coffee than food. Does that mean I am going to die of starvation?

abc gum says:

Re: Re:

Sigh indeed – care to provide factual answers to your questions rather than supposition? That would be great, thanks.

As I recall, Apple has been in the news lately – what was that again? Oh yeah, a high profile case involving claims in the billions. They were simply trying to “enforce their patents” huh. Anti competitive behavior has nothing to do with it at all does it. Rounded corners – give me a break.

Google was in the news lately for their high profile purchasing of patents. It was postulated this move was defensive in nature so I guess one could say they were protecting the patents through their purchase, however that is a bit twisted.

As a consumer, I am getting a bit tired of subsidizing this errant and inefficient waste.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you think about it, money going into R&D is spread out over many many engineers, commodities, plants… money going into patents and lawsuits is predominantly heading to lawyers.

Now unless I’m mistaken, government is made up more of lawyerly types than engineers. What incentive do they have to cut down on patent spending?

Obviously they are ignoring the potential for innovation to increase the size of the economy, but in fairness that isn’t a one-way street… innovation (eg- CDOs) also have the potential to seriously mess with the economy, too.

Mr. Karl B. Hensel says:


Today patenting is just a matter of having money and imagination. We MUST return to the days of bring it in and show us it working as described and how it is made. Period! Google and Apple and other giants are filing patents everyday on everything they and their staff can imagine. So wrong! These companies will have a monopoly on everything now and in the future.

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