The once cutthroat smartphone patent wars may be cooling off for good. Rockstar, the patent holding company jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson, today offloaded its remaining patents for a price of $900 million. Picking up the portfolio is RPX Corp., a company that's promised to license out the former Nortel patents to a syndicate of over 30 tech companies including Cisco and Google. Essentially, RPX is serving as a clearinghouse meant to help its syndicate partners avoid patent litigation and the headaches that often stem from it.
The hostile patent wars have cooled off
Those 30 companies helped fund the big patent buy, though Rockstar is still collecting way less than the $4.5 billion it paid for the entire Nortel patent portfolio in 2011. There's reason for that; 2,000 of the most valuable patents have already been distributed to Rockstar's members and aren't part of the deal announced today. But Rockstar still claims the move is a positive outcome for the entire industry. "We joined Rockstar to ensure that both Microsoft and our industry would have broad access to the Nortel patent portfolio, and we’re pleased to have accomplished that goal through this sale and our valuable license to the patents being sold," Microsoft said in a statement.
The Rockstar consortium won Nortel's deep patent portfolio in 2011 after topping Google's bid of — you guessed it — $900 million. Not long after, the group launched lawsuits against Google and many Android partners like Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE. Mountain View fired back that Rockstar was unfairly targeting Android and taking actions typical of a patent troll. Google and Rockstar settled their issues last month, and today's pact puts the other court battles to rest as well.
We've come a long way from the litigation tensions that consumed the smartphone industry a few years ago, most major patent squabbles between tech companies have now been settled. Apple and Samsung are still duking it out in the US, but have agreed to call off their patent infringement fights internationally. And Motorola, the smartphone company that Google purchased in large part due to its patent holdings, is already under new ownership.