Beyond the smartphone battle: Seven patent lawsuits you should know about

By  Legal, Apple, lawsuit

Over the past decades, the software patent has become a weapon of choice in tech circles. Companies have portfolios of patents that they hold over each others' heads, hoping, just as the Cold War superpowers did of their nuclear arsenals, that they wouldn't actually need to be used. Jonathan Schwartz, newly liberated as ex-CEO of Sun, recently recounted a couple of moments of high-stakes patent gamesmanship he experienced at Sun, facing down Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

[ Your guide to all those damn smartphone lawsuits ]

Sometimes, though, mutually assured destruction fails, and legal hell is unleashed, as in the ugly Apple-HTC lawsuit in progress over smartphone patents. (There are enough smartphone lawsuits in progress that you really need a scorecard to keep track of them all.) But there are a number of lower-profile patent cases out there that you should perhaps be keeping an eye on; after all, who would have guessed that a 30-employee Canadian company would have come close to stopping sales of Microsoft Office worldwide? These seven cases, still in progress, could change the course of tech, might illustrate an interesting point -- or may just serve as a nuisance for various companies for years to come.

Order in the court

Photo courtesy of mrbill

Before Apple vs. HTC: Tech's 5 Most Sensational Patent Cases

Next page: Old school: Lucent v. Microsoft

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