A group of companies that outbid Google for a bunch of patents related to mobile technology has put those patents up for sale.
It’s a sure sign that the patent wars in the mobile industry are finally coming to an end.
The group, Rockstar, includes Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Sony. In 2011, the companies joined together to buy more than 6,000 patents from Nortel, a Canadian telecommunications provider that was going bankrupt.
Those patents were the subject of a serious bidding war that Google also participated in, and after the auction ended, Google complained that the bid was part of a ploy by competitors to use patents to stop Android, which was rapidly growing in market share.
Now, Rockstar is selling 4,000 of those patents to a holding company called RPX, which will licence them to other companies. The remaining 2,000 patents have already been distributed to other companies — particularly Apple, which reportedly snapped up more than 1,000 of them in 2012.
Rockstar used the patents in lawsuits against Android maker Google, some Android resellers such as Samsung, and other companies like Cisco, but has since settled all those cases.
This looks like the end of the patent wars among the major mobile players.
Back in 2012, Google was so concerned about the patent situation with Android that it spent more than $US12 billion buying Motorola Mobility. There were a bunch of other patent lawsuits involving Apple, Microsoft, Google, Motorola, Samsung, and other players as well.
But the major players have mostly settled those suits and agreed to licence each other’s patents. There will still probably be skirmishes, particularly with new players like Xiaomi, but the big patent wars in the mobile space are over.
That’s a sure sign that the smartphone industry has gone through its initial growing pains and is turning into a mature industry — just like the personal computing industry before it.