Apple v. Google Case May End Patent Gold Rush
Just last month, Microsoft (MSFT) spent $1 billion on AOL(AOL) patents. This followed Google's (GOOG) $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, allegedly for its patents, and the $4.5 billion purchase of Nortel patents by a consortium of big tech outfits.
Analysts are now treating patents the way they do cows or acreage, offering per-patent estimates on bulk lots and looking forward to future sales of patent portfolios by the likes of Yahoo(YHOO) and Kodak.
If the gold rush ends, however, credit Richard Posner.
Posner, an esteemed conservative theorist is now a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago, and is currently sitting in as a trial judge.
But this is no ordinary patent trial. It's Apple (AAPL) v. Motorola. The unit of Motorola being sued is the one Google is buying.
Reporters are covering this one like it's a sports story. Among all the Android patent trials now going on around the world, this one may indeed be the Super Bowl. Apple alone has 30 lawyers on the case, charging Motorola with violating six key patents, while Motorola charges Apple with violating three of its own.
So far Posner has been going through motions. Most reporters will ignore the story until the trial, which is not expected to start until June. That would be a mistake, because the decisions a patent judge makes before trial, concerning what the trial will actually cover, can tell a lot about what the final result may be.