There can be little doubt that the year will be remembered for the smartphone patent wars which raged between companies across courtrooms in the US, UK, Asia and Europe.
Samsung Apple patent legal war. Photo: AFP / Rolf Vennenbernd
Some will say that it was the year of the tablet while others will point to smartphones' becoming mainstream and social media companies' being valued at billions of dollars. But the fact is that for most technology watchers, 2012 will go down in history as the year of the patent wars.
Over the last 12 months Apple has sued Samsung, Samsung has sued Apple, Microsoft has sued Google, HTC has sued Apple, Apple has sued HTC, Mformation Technologies has sued RIM and Microsoft has sued Barnes & Noble. There has been so much legal activity that the term ‘Patent Troll' had to be coined to describe a company that owns patents but doesn't make anything of its own, prefering to use the threat or procedure of litigation to force companies that they say infringe patents to pay licensing fees.
Motorola Mobility -- about to be bought by Google -- files a lawsuit targeting Apple seeking an injunction for infringement of six US patents relating to smartphone technology.
Meanwhile in a separate case, a US judge rules in Microsoft's favor and says that the company's use of patents to demand royalties from Barnes & Noble and other Android device makers does not amount to patent misuse.
Apple pulls smartphones from its German online store after Motorola Mobility wins a court injunction because the devices infringed its wireless patents for 3G connections. Apple gets the injunction overturned and counters with its own case where it proves Motorola Android phones are copying the iPhone's ‘slide to unlock' screen activation feature.
Apple sued in Belgium for not providing a free two-year warranty with its products in line with EU law.
Trial between Oracle and Google starts. Oracle claims that Android infringes its intellectual property and copyright relating to Java. The initial filing had contained five patent infringements but since Oracle first sued Google back in 2010 most of the claims have been withdrawn or thrown out.
In other news, AOL agrees to sell more than 800 technology patents worth $1.1billion to Microsoft.
The jury rules that Google stole from Oracle but can't decide whether it amounted to ‘fair use'.
Samsung is ordered to halt sales of its Galaxy 10.1 tablet in the US while the court considers Apple's claim the South Korean tech giant illegally copied the design of the iPad.
A federal jury in San Francisco finds Research In Motion liable for $147 million in damages for infringing on patents held by Mformation Technologies relating to the wireless management of devices.
Apple scores a landmark legal victory over Samsung when a US jury finds the Korean company guilty of copying critical iPhone and iPad features and awards Apple $1.05 billion in damages.
However, in South Korea, a court finds that both companies have infringed each other's patents, fines them both and bans iPhones and Galaxy handsets from sale in the country.
A Munich court rules that now Google-owned Motorola Mobility (MMI) must recall all the Android tablets and smartphones it has shipped in the country which infringe Apple's "rubber band" scrolling patent.
UK Court of Appeal upholds ruling that Samsung does not infringe Apple designs and rules that Apple will take out adverts in newspapers and magazines and carry a page on its website stressing that the Galaxy Tab does not copy the iPad.
Rather than continuing with legal action, Apple and HTC call a truce and sign a licensing agreement that will permit the Taiwanese firm to use Apple patented technology for the next 10 years.
Meanwhile Google takes Microsoft to court, claiming the Xbox and Surface Tablet infringe on Motorola patents and demanding $4 billion a year in licensing fees for the use to continue. Microsoft has offered to pay $1 million a year.
Apple and Samsung return to the US courts to discuss Apple's demands for further damages and further product limitations and Samsung's demands for a retrial. The judge throws out Samsung’s requests but also overturns the eariler sales ban on the products previously proven to infringe Apple’s patents.
Meanwhile in Europe, Samsung drops legal action against Apple after it is warned by the EC not to abuse its ownership of patents relating to 3G networking.