Breakfast Briefing: Apple's $1bn-a-week tax plan, BlackBerry 10 launch, more patent folly

28 Jan 2013
Breakfast Briefing

This morning we look at how Apple is stashing its overseas earnings out of the US taxman's reach, the arrival of BlackBerry 10, and why it never pays to negotiate with a troll

We start the week with news the groaning overseas bank accounts for Apple's overseas earnings, patent shenanigans, BlackBerry 10's arrival, and how the fraud in the online ad is riddled with fraud.

Apple's $1bn a week tax habit

The Telegraph reports how Apple is stashing $1bn a week away from the clutches of US tax officials as part of plan to minimise its taxes from overseas earnings.

The company is by no means alone in seeking a helping hand from its accountant – see Amazon and Google – but press coverage of practices the saw $11bn stashed in offshore accounts in the last quarter will make uncomfortable reading to a company recently boasted about its American-ness when it took a small slice of manufacturing back to the US.

RIM's make-or-break BlackBerry 10 launch

RIM is set to reveal BlackBerry 10 and smartphones to go with it on Wednesday, notes The Guardian, in a bit of analysis looking at how successful the relaunch could be.

The new handsets will have to work hard to pull RIM out of a very deep hole, however. "ComScore, which calculates US smartphone ownership, reckons that there are now just nine million BlackBerry users in the US, down from a peak of nearly 22 million in September 2010, while US smartphone ownership has doubled to 123 million," the story notes.

"Never negotiate with a patent troll"

ArsTechnica reports on a significant victory for common sense, documenting how electronics retailer Newegg refused to pay a patent troll for shopping cart technology in a case that affects online sales everywhere.

The case reveals the tawdry trail of lawyers and company buyouts that led to Soverain seeking a slice of sales for patents it claimed on transaction technology, but Newegg took the high road, and eventually landed a court victory.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bulls***," the company told Ars. "We saw that if we paid off this patent holder, we'd have to pay off every patent holder this same amount. This is the first case we took all the way to trial. And now, nobody has to pay Soverain jack squat for these patents."

The news comes as the Financial Times reveals that 2012 saw the largest ever number of tech patents filed with authorities.

While as recently 1993 only 700 innovations were filed under the International Patent Co-Operation Treaty, by last year the figure had jumped to 14,000, up nearly a fifth compared to 2011.

Ad ecosystem "riddled with fraud"

Search engine expert John Battelle has been busy researching a book, and in the middle of research stumbled across something he believes to be a major threat to online advertising – the system is "riddled with fraud".

A blog post documents several techniques that mean ad counters can't always be accurate, but claims the ecosystem is reluctant to take action because almost everyone benefits.

"The bad actors are currently far ahead of the good guys, and worse, many in our industry are turning a blind eye, hoping the problem goes away in time, without too much publicity," says Battelle in a blog. "Why? Well, nearly everyone gets paid from fraud – the publishers, the exchanges, the data providers, and the agencies. Even the marketers,who are footing the bill, feel like they are getting value – because the success metrics they've set up are being met."

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