Mobile Patent Lawsuits: An Easier Way To Visualize The Quagmire

IT Management

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If you're a mobile phone maker, hardware or software, at some point and time, you've probably been apart of the ongoing series of lawsuits that dominate the industry. While, when looking at an infographic provided by Thomson Reuters, it seems like Apple is responsible, or at least apart of, many of the lawsuits that are ongoing, the iPhone makers are not the only ones who have a litigious streak.

The aforementioned infographic provides some clarity to the landscape of mobile patent lawsuits, but it, too, has come under some criticism for being too difficult to decipher. Before that, here's Reuters' take on the all the lawyer fun:

Mobile Lawsuits Infographic

As pointed out by FlowingData, that particular infographic is a little hard to read. In fact, FlowingData quoted Mike Bostock, who called the creation "abysmal:"

Thomson Reuters published a rather abysmal infographic showing the "bowl of spaghetti" that is current flurry of patent-related suits in the mobile communications industry. So, inspired by a comment by John Firebaugh, I remade the visualization to better convey the network. That company in the center? Yeah, it's the world's largest, so little wonder it has the most incoming suits.

The visualization Bostock speaks of does indeed show Apple at the center the new chart, although, Microsoft is not lacking in participation, either:

Mobile Lawsuits Infographic

As indicated by Bostock, the dashed lines are resolved lawsuits, while the green lines represent licensing matters. So what did we learn? That almost every company involved in the mobile industry are involved in some kind of lawsuit?

Pretty much.

While Apple and Microsoft are at the center of many of these legal matters, Google is only being sued by Oracle over Java-related patents. That being said, Google's mobile phone OS, Android--or at least the device makers who design phones for the Android OS (HTC, Motorola, Samsung, for instance)--are involved in a couple of of legal disputes, coming from both Apple and Microsoft.

While these patent disputes may have merit, it seems more like big-time companies working to secure their dominance in the mobile device industry, at least in regards to Apple. Microsoft, it seems, just wants the chance to compete in a field already dominated by two different companies; or, at least, they just want their piece of the pie because two of their six lawsuits--according to the graphics, anyway--concern licensing matters.

It's a "clear as mud" concept brought to life quite well by both Bostock's visualization and the Reuters graphic, even though the latter was derisively greeted by some.