Tech Firms Intensify Clashes Over Patents

Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT) lawsuit Friday against Motorola Inc. (MOT) is the latest sign that technology giants are more aggressively wielding patents against their rivals, seeking strategic advantages and financial rewards.

The recent spate of lawsuits is mainly focused on the mobile-phone market, where relative newcomers from the computer industry are jostling for position, tangling with entrenched players.

By contrast, patent lawsuits between direct competitors have become relatively rare in computing hardware and software, fields in which competitive positions have solidified.

Filing patent suits can increase uncertainty about competitors’ prospects, legal experts say, while helping plaintiffs generate financial returns from their patents. Some technology firms have built up patent-licensing businesses—following the lead of companies like International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM)—and use lawsuits as a tool to win lucrative settlements.

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