RIM thought it wiser to stop disputing Nokia's intellectual property and settled the patent row this Friday, when the companies announced they had entered into a new patent license agreement, ending all litigation between the vendors worldwide.
While litigation between Apple and Samsung continues, the focus of litigation in the smartphone industry could very well shift to other players, said Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms and Media's industry research division. It appears that relationships between the "biggest winners" in the smartphone industry are becoming better.
The major patent disputes in 2013 could very well be between second-tier smartphone vendors and the two big ones, he said.
"It will be particularly interesting to see if the more distressed handset vendors like Nokia are coming to see their patent portfolio as more strategic assets," said Newman.
Since Google bought Motorola Mobility to enhance its patent portfolio, companies like Nokia started to look at their own patents as a way to make money, he said. In 2013 there could be a tendency from the old handset makers that are less successful in the smartphone industry to start using their patent portfolio more.
China could also become a factor. "We expect to see further growth in the Chinese device sector," Newman said, adding that those vendors are likely to start exporting these phones. "It will be interesting to see if they start taking licenses," he said. If they don't, lawsuits would be a likely result, but they might be hard to win in China's home market, Newman added.
Consumers could very well pay the price for ongoing smartphone patent battles. Clearly, large patent dispute payouts add to the overall costs consumers pay in the market place for a smartphone today, Newman said. Although, for now, consumers seem to be willing to pay high prices for smartphones because they are so desirable, he added.
Big patent disputes will be as common in 2013 as they were in 2012, Newman said. "There is really no end in sight," he said, adding that there is always going to be a huge amount of innovation in the mobile industry, and people will keep wanting patent these innovations to protect them, he said.
The patent wars therefore will "absolutely continue", Newman said. "At least, for the foreseeable future."
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.