3. Apple sues Samsung: Android under siege again
Apple's lawsuit against Samsung, launched in the U.S. in April and eventually involving courtroom battles in Germany, France, Australia and elsewhere, focused on a patent for list-scrolling software and three smartphone and tablet design patents. The real threat to Apple, however, is not only Samsung but Google's Android. While Samsung, which sells Android devices, became the world's biggest smartphone vendor this year, Android's market share surpassed 50 percent, comprising 60 million devices from multiple vendors. Android's success makes it a target. Google suffered a direct legal attack in 2010 when Oracle filed a lawsuit charging that Android infringes Oracle patents and copyrights related to Java. Microsoft, also gunning for Android, signed a cross-patent deal with Samsung in September that grants it royalties from Samsung's Android-based smartphones and tablets. Meanwhile, Google hopes to strengthen its patent arsenal by acquiring Motorola Mobility, which itself was hit with a lawsuit last year from Microsoft. With Smartphones and tablet sales skyrocketing, the stakes are enormous and Android-related legal battles likely will be fought for years to come.
4. Stop Online Piracy Act
Introduced in October in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, would give U.S. law enforcement the ability to obtain court orders to stop search engines, payment processors, and other entities from doing business with websites accused of enabling copyright infringement. The Act would also allow copyright holders to obtain court orders to block allegedly infringing sites under certain conditions. SOPA is wider in scope than the similar Protect IP Act in the U.S. Senate. Critics say the bills, particularly SOPA, give law enforcement sweeping powers to censor legitimate websites, such as YouTube, that may host some infringing content, and could end up being misused by companies as a way to block competitors. The legislative debate will continue well into 2012.
5. Egypt goes offline
Just after midnight Cairo time on Jan. 28, 3, 500 Internet Border Gateway Protocol routes connecting Egypt to the rest of world vanished from sight. It didn't take long to figure out that Egyptian service providers, under pressure from a government besieged by political protest, had cut connectivity to the Internet. Mobile telecommunications were similarly affected. As soon as access returned five days later, Egyptians logged back on to social networks. In the next few months, Libya and Syria also moved to sever the Internet and various African regimes blocked social networks in the face of election tumult. As the Internet becomes an increasingly important organizational tool and information conduit, such attempts to cut connectivity amid political unrest will no doubt continue.