If you needed further proof that patent wars are detrimental to innovation, look no further than a new piece from The New York Times. The extensive article highlights the fact that big companies often threaten small start-ups with an extensive (and board) patent portfolio that ultimately leads to an acquisition of the smaller firm by the larger company or worse, a lawsuit.

But even more appalling is the revelation that those in the smartphone industry spent around $20 billion on patent litigation in the last two years.

The paper reveals that tech giants like Apple and Google have spent more money on legal battles than research and development in the past year. Cupertino spent just south of $3 billion on R&D in 2011 with plans to spend under $4 billion this year – figures that are far less than every other major technology company.

An unnamed source at Google told the paper they believe Apple enjoys these legal battles.

“Sometimes they’re asking for money. Then they say we have to promise to not copy aspects of the iPhone. And whenever we get close to an agreement, it all changes again.

“Our feeling is they don’t really want this to end. As long as everyone is distracted by these trials, the iPhone continues to sell.”

The article also highlights the fact that Apple initially submitted a patent application for what would become Siri in 2004. It took two years before officials got to Apple’s submission, ultimately denying it.

This didn’t deter Cupertino, however, as they modified and resubmitted the application another eight times over the next five years. It wasn’t until the 10th attempt last year that they were awarded patent 8,086,604 for a voice and text-based search engine.