Why Apple does not file patent suits against ChinaChina has emerged as the world’s largest smartphone market, but Apple does not raise patent suits against China. Some think that it is because raising lawsuit in China is always disadvantageous to foreign companies. Others speculate that Apple has little to gain from patent suits in China. However, both claims lack grounds for argument.
I think the critical reason why Apple does not proceed with lawsuits in China is because Apple’s patents in China are not sufficient to attack its rivals yet. As of December 16, 2012, Apple has applied for a total of 1,247 patents, including new industrial designs and design patents. The number of patents is far too small considering Apple’s reputation. For example, Samsung Electronics, the biggest competitor of Apple, has applied for 1,219 patents in 2011. The number of patents applied by Samsung in a year is equivalent to the total number of patents applied by Apple.
If you look at Apple’s patents that are actually used in patent suits in the United States, the situation is more serious. Among the 1,247 patents applied for by Apple in China, only 90 invention patents have been registered at the moment. Among these 90 cases, only one invention patent has been used in the U.S. court. Expand the scope to the patents used in Korea, and Apple has obtained patents in China on two of the invention patents that it claims infringement on in Korea.
However, these two patents were ruled in Korea as not infringing on patent rights. As a result, Apple cannot start patent lawsuits in China except by purchasing the patents of other companies and claiming infringement.
*Lee Ki-sung Patent attorney at Koryo International Patent and Law Office