Who’s Suing Whom In The Telecoms Trade?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Who's Suing Whom in the Telecom's Trade
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Hangbags away boys! Who’s suing whom in the telecoms trade?

Based on these diagrams from Guardian Tech and the NY Times.

I thought those charts generated more questions than they answered. So, as ever, I tried to answer the obvious questions and convey various contexts simultaneously.

I wondered, too, if I could design the connections so the lines didn’t cross. Almost managed it!

And see if there was a relationship between dropping revenues and litigiousness. What do you think? Is there?

Data: http://bit.ly/sosueme

UPDATE 9th Oct - New data and corrections. RIM is not suing Sharp. Motorola is suing Apple over 18 patent infringements. Sony Ericsson’s revenue resized (we mistakenly used Sony’s revenue). Thanks all for corrects and new info.
UPDATE 12th Oct - Nokia and Qualcomm’s suits were all settled in 2008 (we had one still graphicked as unsettled). Thanks to um, Nokia for that correction.

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Show Comments ( )

  • http://www.twitter.com/acotgreave Andy Cotgreave

    Nice improvement!

    Re: Is there a relationship between dropping revenues and litigiousness? Possibly…

    I took your data and had a really basic look – click here. Inevitably, it raises more questions than answers….

  • http://www.twitter.com/acotgreave Andy Cotgreave
  • http://www.fairbrother.net Neil Fairbrother Interim Marketing

    Nice. But not really telecoms.. some telecoms… but all tech.

  • Jason

    interesting. Why aren’t the providers included, i.e. Sprint, Verizon and so on?

    • david

      just focussed on makers & manufacturers

  • SD

    I think maybe you used Sony’s total revenue despite the “Sony Ericsson” label.

    • david

      yep I think you’re right. I will fix. Thanks! D

  • Olivier M.

    Please fix the case in the columns “who” and “Suing who” so they match each other.

  • http://www.sortingthingsout.com Noreen C. Heavlin

    Hi David – Great chart. Apple and Google were best buddies until Google released the Droid phone. Instead of suing Google directly, Apple is going after HTC instead. You might consider including the i4i story http://money.cnn.com/2009/12/23/smallbusiness/i4i_microsoft_lawsuit/ and http://tinyurl.com/28eqlxa . Would be fun to see how you visually represent i4i. All the best, Noreen

  • http://www.hacerunapagina.com.ar/ Jo|Hacer una Pagina

    Very good graphic!

    So…we are destinated to choice into 4 companies in next ten years…



  • Dan Greenberg

    Video is the future. So, just for laughs, you should add in litigation regarding video compression, whether it’s MPEG (includes LG in MPEG LA), VC-1 (Microsoft), or VP8 (Google), there’s lots and lots of amusement going on! Remember: “standard” does not mean “free of patent licensing.” :-)

  • Jussi Hagman

    A very nice, graph. I have just a small nitpick.

    It appears though both bubbles between Nokia and Apple describe the content of Nokia’s suit, not Apple’s. From the bubbles one could assume the speech coding and security patents are Apple’s, but AFAIK this is not the case.

  • mo

    Decreasing Kodak. Poor Kodak. Kodak was very Big company befor digital camera. My major was photography in college. so I had to buy many comera films. The camera store had Kodak film, Fuji film and AGFA film. Kodak film was the most expensive film but photographer students prefer the Kodak film to others. I don’t know….why…just we thought Kodak film’s quality is the best and it will make better photos. My classmates and me thought we will be good photographer with kodak. so we put a little empty film cylinder up at the bag or key ring. Now the store closed and we can’t find camera films easily. I was realized decreasing Kodak company. I know it again from this pictur. Kodak spent really hard time now .

    • kodaksux

      Kodak is garbage. Used to be good, but now they just put their name on junk to sell it for more money. Sellout junk company.

  • Ethan Whaley

    First comment, love the blog. I saw this graphic this morning and love the presentation.


  • Alex


    found another graphic here at Designlanguage

  • Tim

    From a graphical point of view I like the following chart most: http://news.designlanguage.com/post/1252039209 It has the same content and took the ugly chart from the Guardian as its source. Missing detailed information but a nice overview!

  • http://parallellogic.deviantart.com/ Parallel Logic

    I’d be curious about the percent of past and ongoing lawsuits as a percent of profits — I suspect there would be a larger correlation between profits and the lawsuits if the lawsuits were a predominant part of the company’s activity

  • PradeepVizz

    Awesome !

  • http://www.facebook.com/EZMelts Ezmelts

    Only of your dotted lines is crossing, but this is still a great job!
    So what exactly is anti-competitive prices and how is this resolved..?

  • http://www.garethtownsend.info Gareth Townsend

    So what happens if you replace revenue with profit? Like Parallel Logic I think it might make for a more interesting chart.

  • http://www.hot.com.au/ Luis Garcia

    Why can’t we all just get along?

    I wonder how much of these companies resources go into these lawsuits, and more importantly, how much of that is passed on to the consumers.

  • Matthias

    strange color choice. red for decreasing and gray for increasing. I feel the opposite.

  • http://www.squidzone.ca Darin Cowan

    Move the Samsung block up in between Nokia, Kodak and LG and no lines will have to cross.

  • http://www.bitblokes.de Juergen

    HP is missing. They are suing Oracle (or Hurd) because he changed company :)

  • sarah

    LOVE the visualization! Though, one more to include would be HP suing Oracle!

  • MalEbenSo

    I tried to wrap my head around why the patent system in its current form is so patently broken after it has served reasonably well for many decades.

    With regards to patent legislation, what is the essence of changes compared to 20 or 50 years ago?

    I say speed. Our problems are not because of the changes themselves, but because of the rate of change, the speed with which changes are happening.

    With all the amazing technological developments of recent years, with all the game-changers, they are still all “evolutionary” compared the true revolution, which is the speed of development.

    Patent law worked when the cost and timeframe of copying was negligible compared to inventing. That is not true anymore for high-tech.

    Challenge any tech company to “build something like the iPhone or the iPad,” and they will lag behind those critical months or few years, where Apple has already moved on for the next big thing, leaving copycats in the dust.

    Outside Apple: Allow GM to copy Mercedes technology, and (hopefully) after all disassembling and reverse engineering is done and by the time the finally got it right (or, well, sort of) Mercedes has already pushed the envelope. (Well, they better, given the markup they’re charging.)

    Also, right now development occurs so fast, that patent research has become a major bottleneck (of finding if and which patents might apply to one’s own work) and a significant operational risk (of being sued). “Due diligence” has become an impossibility.

    That statement is debatable (and l am looking forward to discussion). But assuming, that indeed speed is the key to cleaning up the current mess, then what would be a good way to fix things?

    Before throwing in my suggestion, here’s another general statement to consider: Whatever the suggestion for target legislation might be, we need a migration path to get from here to there. The solution needs to deal with current patent treasure chests. Company with rich patent portfolios will lobby, ah, argue like crazy. Lacking any legal education I could imagine that e. g. invalidating existing and already granted portfolios resembles disowning patent holders.

    So to fix the patent system for a quickly changing world and provide a way to get to that new patent system, I suggest
    - for starter to leave existing patents as they are for now
    - change validity period for new patents to something much shorter, e. g. one or two years

    I expect the latter suggestion to provide these benefits:
    - number of patents will go down, because it becomes more cost efficient to innovate rather than hedge yourself
    - reduced patent numbers restore practicality of patent research
    - number of law suits will go down
    - legal risk for tech companies is significantly reduced, allowing them to focus on their core business: technology

    There is plenty of room to fine-tune this suggestion:
    - also reduce the validity of existing patents to ten or five years
    - challenge the validity of existing law on the grounds of the practical impossibility to comply

    Patents aside: I was amazed how Samsung and LG dwarf Oracle, Google, Apple and all in the above graphic.

  • Brian Mikkelsen

    I wondered, too, if I could design the connections so the lines didn’t cross. Almost managed it!

    Motorola, to bottom left
    RIM, to sony ericsson position
    Sony Ericsson, move right, top align with kodak
    Samsung, above Microsoft

  • Mark Durrant

    David, another correction please. ALL actions between Nokia and Qualcomm were settled in 2008, per Nokia’s press release from July 24 that year (see http://www.nokia.com/press/press-releases/archive/archiveshowpressrelease?newsid=1238093). Please amend your diagram, thanks.

    Mark Durrant, Nokia communications.

  • http://labs.interfacedigital.co.uk Martin Gittins

    I’ve created an interactive version of the mobile lawsuits, based on the graphic by George Kokkindis at designlanguage (http://news.designlanguage.com/post/1252039209).

    You can view it here (Flash required):
    Click on a company to see who they’re suing and who’s suing them. Rollover an arrow for more details.

    Related blog post here:

    It’s a starting point for a more dynamic chart that can be more easily updated as the data changes.

  • Michaelm

    The problem is lawyers have figured out that they can make tons of money suing everyone regardless if the client gets anything out of it, either way they make tons on billable hours, and smaller companies often cave in and pay damages or royalties. Still other companies have figured out that they don’t have to make anything at all just keep suing everyone and base all revenues on that.

    It is these situations that have created such a mess, one in which we the end consumer end up paying the high cost of the game these greedy people are playing.

  • http://www.ihudaif.com Ibrahim

    I’ve enjoyed the figures and the collection, well done!

  • Anonymous

    The article was very informative and well written. While searching for this kind of articles, I found another well written article titled”never ending mess of telecom patents”. to read more please


  • Paul

    While they’re down, kick ‘em? I was certainly expecting more of an obvious ‘go for the money’ theme than seems in evidence. That could be in a relation of the big tend to be targets or the getting bigger. Although the ratio was somewhat greater than 1.0 for both a) ratio of arrow head on black / red, and b) ratio of arrows from little to big to arrows from big to little; there wasn’t the dominance of the go for the money theme that I was expecting. Perhaps the hungry/greed aspect would be more evident if viewed without counter suits and placing each initial suit (starting a fight) on a 2D of relative company size vs target companies recent growth.

    Another note, is I have noticed that at least one company I know has grasped for straws when times are tough and one straw they reached for is IPR revenue… I expect that too is an industry standard.

  • Paul

    Fix the patent system problem root caused the speed? It seems the problem with the IPR system in the US and indeed world runs much deeper and systemic than simply speed and quality. For instance, there are plenty of 2G base stations being shipped in 2010 for a network useful life likely to extend over 20 years. Analog Cellular was about the same as were even older public safety and commercial trunking system. Probably speeding up over the generations although it may be more of a generations or not as revolutionary. However, meanwhile, the handset business is a “all the profits” are in the first 6 months type of business. So, getting a quality patent process that works say in days would address one issue, but how do you assign a patent lifetime to accomplish the goal of promoting innovation? The rational values would seem to be months in some cases to more than a decade in others – is there a compromise value or does it need to be content?

  • http://vislives.com Chris Pudney

    I’ve put together a collection of all the mobile patents infographics I’ve come across. I reckon Dave’s is the best of the bunch (so far :) ) Please let me know of any I’ve missed.

    • http://vislives.com Chris Pudney

      Sigh, broken link – try this one.

  • Andrew Warner

    A lot of the patents they’re squabbling over should never have been granted, IMHO. They are supposed to be non-obvious but things like one-click ordering etc., are very obvious. Any hack in the right circumstances would come up with it or something similar. That’s what bugs me about a lot of software patents, you can patent anything that you do in the normal course of your work and, of course, so can someone else. Then it begins with the suing and the counter-suing and the predatory litigation and the defensive litigation and so on…

  • Andrew

    None of the companies listed are telecom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wlanguide NEO MAX

    Nokia is dying….

  • http://www.martinvaresio.com.ar Martin

    They are supposed to be non-obvious but things like one-click ordering etc.!! Very nice post!!

  • http://www.regimeetsante.com regime

    Post “Who’s Suing Whom In The Telecoms Trade?” saved to fav. Thankyou.

  • http://www.webagecorp.com WebAge

    The worst has to be the war between Apple and Samsung with patents regarding iPhone, iPad and Galaxy.