The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled on January 6 that Google infringed Sonos’ patented innovations in wireless speaker technology. This may sound like an obscure legal ruling about a complicated fight over intellectual property. But it confirms a problem that threatens America’s innovation economy and its international economic competitiveness.
The problem? Intellectual property theft.
Years ago, Big Tech companies like Google decided that they profit more by stealing smaller companies’ intellectual property than buying or licensing it. Google, Apple, Samsung and others — with cash reserves in the tens, even hundreds, of billions of dollars — do not sweat legal fees, court costs or even damages they might have to pay for this theft. Google has a reported $142 billion in cash in the bank. This is far beyond what most companies make in total annual profits.
Big Tech thus takes what it wants. It then uses scorched-earth litigation tactics to beat up on complaining IP owners. It drags out litigation over many years and imposes massive litigation costs on IP owners seeking justice. Many IP owners don’t even file a lawsuit. They know it is ruinous and self-defeating to try to protect what is rightfully theirs.
Simply put, Big Tech benefits from stealing IP. The legal costs and potential damages, if ever issued after years of litigation, are paltry by comparison.
A few companies have fought back, and the results confirm this predatory infringement practice. The story of Google’s abuse of Sonos is one of the more telling ones….