Obviously, there have been an awful lot of patent lawsuits in the past few years concerning smartphones and various software and hardware associated with smartphones. The folks over at law firm WilmerHale have now released a paper, which conservatively (and thoroughly) estimates that the patent royalties that need to be paid by smartphone manufacturers currently exceeds $120 per device
-- which they note is right around the price of the components themselves (found via FOSS Patents
, which notes that the estimates in the paper almost certainly lowball
the patent royalties, so they may be much higher). Basically, more than half the cost of making a smartphone these days is in paying off patent holders.
The authors of the paper are pretty clear that they don't even have data on many other parts of the smartphone where patent holders have demanded licensing payments, meaning the number is probably actually higher. Though, on the flipside, they admit that some companies likely negotiated lower rates in private than the "headline" rates that were publicly revealed. Either way, the $120 estimate is likely fairly conservative.
Talk about a massive tax on innovation -- that all of us are paying for.
And, of course, many of these fees are going to pure trolls, who have contributed nothing to making actual smartphones. The paper highlights the explosion of troll lawsuits in the past few years:
Though, to be fair, some of that is because of the America Invents Act of 2011, which made it more difficult for trolls to file a single lawsuit against multiple defendants, meaning that many started more lawsuits against individual defendants.
Either way, this should be seen as a massive problem. Rather than going towards innovation and better, more affordable products for the pubic, money is going to lawyers and patent trolls who have contributed nothing to society. It's a massive dead weight loss to the economy.