Of course, time isn't the only limiting factor here. It's more likely that bieing big enough as a company to pursue lawsuits while continuing to innovate on the side is what determines whether a company in fact chooses to do what it must to protect its IP. It's a luxury many companies don't have.
Junko Yoshida said: ...in the end, companies have to do everything in their power to protect their IPs. No questions about it.
Actually, I believe there is a question and a trade-off. When a company becomes a patent aggressor, it's often the case that the company has ceased to be a technological leader and must instead live off its existing patents and what it has purchased from others when the company had a lot of cash. Companies with great new ideas and great products are too busy developing those ideas and products to waste time preparing lawsuits. At least that's the impression I get, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
A public company has an obligation to its shareholders to maximize the company's value. If suing over dubious patents besmirches a company's reputation and makes it look like it's on its way down, that's not maximizing shareholder value.
The patent protection system is overdue for an overhaul. There are few truly unique innovations that deserve patent protection. Most are solutions that any competent engineer or scientist would come up with when faced with a specific problem. The current system results in a lot of work by accountants and lawyers that provides no real benefit to society.
@EFosters, as to the strength of Spansion's IPs, obviously, I think that's something for our legal system to decide. While I do understand that people are weary of all the news about IP battles, in the end, companies have to do everything in their power to protect their IPs. No questions about it.
We will see how far Spansion will take this (especially on eCT front).