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Mobile operators 'blow billions' on legal bills

3GSM: The culture of litigation in the mobile industry is filling the pockets of the legal profession
Written by Jo Best, Contributor on

With the mobile industry seemingly overrun with patent disputes, the lawyers' bills could be running into billions of dollars.

Graham Bell, principal consultant at PA Consulting, told delegates at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona he believes the mobile industry will spend between $1bn (£512m) and $2bn (£1.24bn) on lawyers this year.

Mobility has seen a number of high-profile companies locked in legal battles of late, including a long-running spat between Qualcomm and Nokia and a case that concluded last year that saw RIM pay out $612m.

And it's not just the big boys suffering. Bell said: "For the small players, understanding the environment is expensive, time-consuming and uncertain... and that's understanding, let alone going onto licence negotiation."

Other patents systems have been mooted to tackle such problems, including a "patent pool" and a royalty-free approach. However, Bell believes the current system remains the most effective despite its flaws.

"Standards aren't failing industry but essential IPR [intellectual property rights] is a big issue for us... patents are a two-edged sword," Bell warned.

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