Cellphone patents are on the rise, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones. Many patents have been issued to protect the technology that's vital to these devices. 

As of October 2012, there were 250,000 active cellphone patents to protect the specialized technology for smartphones. These patents represent one out of six active patents. There are likely more now, and many companies are compiling huge portfolios of cellphone patents.

Samsung alone filed 2,179 smartphone patent applications in 2013 alone, which outnumbered the total patent applications filed by Apple in the same year. 

In such a short time having Android and iPhone devices on the market, there have been more than a billion internet-connected electronic devices that use software on operating system platforms. 

This industry is generating significant income as well. Xiaomi plans to sell 100 million smartphones in 2015 alone, and they're not even close to the major producers of smartphones.

Patents indicate that innovation is occurring, which is a good sign for the industry, but the many patents have stirred some controversy among those who question the value of patents. Some argue that patents make the technology more expensive, and there's a fear of the consequences of enforcing patent rights. For others, smartphone patent wars have shed light on issues within our patent system and patents in general.

Recently, Microsoft sued Kyocera for infringing on intellectual property with their smartphones. Microsoft claims that Kyocera smartphones infringe on seven active patents. Cases such as this can ultimately cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars in litigation and licensing agreements

Despite these concerns, it's difficult to argue that active patents harm smartphone integration, since this innovation is why smartphones have changed so much in the past decade. More smartphones are being sold now than ever before and continue to improve over time. Everything from waterproof phones to curved touchscreens is available now. 

Smartphone technology is even available in vehicles. The Apple CarPlay system offers software services on an in-vehicle dashboard, which allows an iPhone to connect with the dashboard display. In order to advertise this, a patent for Accessing a Vehicle using Portable Devices is needed. Without it, there is no protection for their inventors' work.

It's likely that the multi-billion-dollar lawsuits filed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung in this patent war will likely slow down soon. Rockstar, a collection of companies that includes Sony, Apple, and Microsoft, acquired more than 6,000 patents from Nortel in 2011. Ultimately, Rockstar sold 4,000 of those patents to RPX in 2014, which planned to license them to other companies. 

Yale Holds Patents to Produce a New Generation of Cell Phone Cases

Jan Schroers, a Yale engineering professor, holds several Yale patents through the Office of Cooperative Research. These patents are related to bulk metallic glasses and the process used to turn them into waterproof, responsive cellphone cases. He also holds patents related to creating molds for small parts for watches and sensors. 

Combined with his experience, these patents form the basis of his startup, Supercool Metals. Discussions about making sheets of bulk metallic glasses to be used for other types of molding have always been around, but Yale is the first one to develop a sheet-making technique that is practical and scalable.

Schroers' research represents a major breakthrough in the development of bulk metallic glasses, which have been highly-sought for smartphone and electronic casings. Their strength and flexibility are well suited for electronic covers. 

This process is now scalable, which means machines can now produce the sheets with blow-molding. This process is low-cost and entirely "green.” 

Apple and Samsung have been working on producing waterproof smartphones, and Yale's technology is a huge step in the right direction.

Recent Smartphone Patents

There are some other interesting smartphone patents currently, including:

  • Smartphone Biosensor, an image sensor that can act as a laboratory to detect bacteria and viruses 
  • Method and Apparatus for Using Sensors on a Portable Electronic Device to Verify Transactions, which can be used for electronic transactions
  • Secure Smartphone-Operated Gun Lock, which prevents the operation of a gun and can override the lock release, as well as determining if the owner is intoxicated

If you need more information on cell phone patents, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.