This week's Apple-Samsung case is just the latest battle in a global war over high-tech patents.
As we've reported before, the big tech companies have amassed huge patent portfolios and are suing and countersuing each other all over the planet. Lots of people within the high-tech industry think the whole patent thing is out of hand.
Now judges, it seems, are getting fed up.
In May, a judge hearing a patent dispute between Microsoft and Motorola (now owned by Google) said:
"The court is well aware that it is being played as a pawn in a global industry-wide business negotiation," said U.S. District Judge James Robart at the conclusion of the hearing.
He continued, "The conduct of both Motorola and Microsoft has been driven by an attempt to secure commercial advantage, and to an outsider looking in, it has been arbitrary, it has been arrogant and frankly it appears to be based on hubris."
In June, Judge Richard Posner dismissed a case in which Apple and Motorola were suing each other over smartphone patents. At one point in the case, Posner rejected Apple's claim that its swipe-to-unlock patent should also cover tapping:
Apple's .. argument is that "a tap is a zero-length swipe." That's silly. It's like saying that a point is a zero-length line.
At another point, he called one of Motorola claims "ridiculous."
Posner, who has long argued for considering the economic implications of legal questions, wrote a post at the Atlantic last month headlined Why There Are Too Many Patents in America. His basic argument is that patent law should work differently for different industries; it's worth reading the whole piece.
In Australia, a federal judge Annabelle Bennet hearing an Apple-Samsung case expressed her frustration last week that the companies couldn't work out their differences out of court. Bloomberg reports:
"Why on earth are these proceedings going ahead?" Bennett asked the lawyers in court today. "It's just ridiculous." A similar dispute between any other two companies would be immediately ordered to mediation, she said.
"Why shouldn't I order the parties to mediation?"
'Not as cool'
A judge in the U.K. ruled last month that Samsung's Galaxy tablets don't infringe on Apple's iPad patents. The judge said Samsung's tablets were unlikely to be confused with the iPad because they are "not as cool," the judge said, according to Bloomberg.
What's more, the judge ordered Apple to publish ads in British newspapers to tell the public that Samsung did not copy designs for the iPad.