The smartphone patent court battles have filled lawyers pockets around the world. The next big cash cow for legal eagles? Patents covering the popular protective cases for those very same smartphones.
The fights come as the mobile accessories market has gone upscale with some cases made by luxury designers costing more than the phones they cover. Some cases are billed as virtually destruction-proof, said to protect precious electronics from crushing blows or cresting waves.
The smartphone case market is now an estimated $1 billion annual industry, according to NPD Group, a market research firm. Over 100 million Samsung and Apple phones were shipped last quarter. So the demand is there for cases to protect buyers’ coveted new handsets.
The big industry players sell their wares through the Apple Store, Best Buy, and AT&T’s retail stores. While they have had much success in getting court judgements against Chinese and domestic sellers of knock-offs, the lawsuits of one designer against another aren’t as cut and dried.
Otter Products, Inc, the manufacturer of the popular Otterbox cases, is a regular visitor at the courthouse. The company has filed lawsuits in federal court against LifeProof and Morphie for alleged patent infringement over waterproof cases for iOS devices. Morphie and LifeProof deny the charges.
While none of the companies responded to requests for comments, LifeProof spokesman Jonathan Wegner said that LifeProof has programs in place to protect its own intellectual property.
In order for a patent infringement lawsuit to succeed, the plaintiff has to prove the defendant is infringing their patents, and perhaps show what is innovative about their designs.
So far, the legal battles isn’t slowing down the smartphone case industry.
I saw hundreds of different cases available at this years CES event, and have been receiving a steady stream of cases in the mail for review since the show.
Now if you’ll excuse me, the UPS man is knocking on my door…