John Paczkowski

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Patent Wars Are “Pain in the Ass,” Says Tim Cook (Video)

Asked that question during the opening session of D10 Tuesday night, Apple’s CEO had a simple reply: “Well, they are a pain in the ass.”

Indeed, Apple is involved in a mess of patent infringement lawsuits with a number of different opponents in a number of different countries. Why? Because the patent system is broken in a fundamental way. It allows companies to exploit standards-essential patents — patents that must be licensed in order for products to function according to accepted industry standards.

“The vast majority of people suing us are suing on standards-essential patents,” Cook said. “And that’s where the patent system is broken. … No one should be able to get an injunction off a standards patent, because the owner is obligated to license it in a fair and reasonable manner.

“Apple has not sued anyone over standards-essential patents that we own, because we feel it’s fundamentally wrong to do that,” Cook continued. “The problem in this industry is that if you add up what everyone says their standards-essential patents are worth, no one would be in the phone business. It’s maddening. It’s a waste. It’s a time suck. Does it stop innovation? Well, it’s not going to stop us, but it’s overhead. I wish we could settle this stuff.”

That said, Cook’s clearly not interested in settling with companies he feels are copying Apple.

“From our point of view it’s important that Apple not be the developer for the world,” Cook said, echoing comments he made during Apple’s last earnings call. “We take all of our energy and all of our care, and to have someone else put their name on it? The worst thing in the world that can happen to you if you’re engineer and you’ve given your life to something is for someone to rip it off and put their name on it. We just don’t want people ripping us off.”

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