As patent-trolling and suing becomes an ever more established part of business–and as Apple (AAPL) gets ever richer and ventures ever further into the litigious telecoms industry–the company’s lawsuit exposure is growing. Mark Veverka at Barrons says the company is on a pace to be hit with 30 patent lawsuits this year, versus 15 last year and 9 in 2006.
Mark worries that this litigation could ultimately whack Apple’s stock, the way patent pissing matches between Qualcomm (QCOM), Nokia (NOK), and Broadcom (BCOM) has occasionally hobbled their shares. At least in the near term, we think this is unlikely, despite the increasing number of folks firing arrows at Apple’s fat target.
First, as Mark points out, Apple has a strong internal legal team, which should be capable of dispatching the flimsy cases. Second, and more importantly, Apple has an $18 billion cash pile. The latter will allow the company to selectively litigate and/or settle any cases that might have merit without putting the franchise at risk.
A $500 million settlement is a once-in-a-lifetime bonanza for a patent troll and its attorneys. It’s couch change for Apple.