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TheStreet Open House

Big Winners and Losers of Tech Patent Wars

Stocks in this article: AAPLGOOGBBRYMSFTAOLYHOOFB

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In 2007, as Apple (AAPL) was preparing to reveal the iPhone it had been working on in secret for years to the world, Steve Jobs boasted that they had "patented the hell out of it."

Two years ago, we seemed to be at the height of a ferocious patent war in technology. Apple was going after Samsung and every other Android manufacturer.

Mass hysteria in the patent space seemed to hit when Google (GOOG) bought Motorola for $12.5 billion in August 2011.

Yet, here we are almost two years later and the patent wars seem to have subsided to the point where it almost seems not to matter any longer. We've essentially hit a stalemate.

Who's the biggest loser of the tech patent wars? Unquestionably, Apple. In 2006, before they released the iPhone to the world, every smart phone looked like a BlackBerry (BBRY) or Treo. The entire Android lineup of phones were cheap BlackBerry knock-offs.


Within a couple of years, all smart phones are copycats of iPhones -- even if the phone makers claim otherwise because their app icons have rounded corners.

Certainly, this can't have been the world that Steve Jobs was imagining in 2007. On the one hand, the iPhone has likely been a much bigger hit than even the biggest Apple fan could have imagined back before its release. That the world has tried to copy it is a testament to how important and how revolutionary it was.

Yet, I'm sure Jobs would be shocked at just how ineffectual his investments in patent protection has been.

In some ways, Google has been a loser here. It blew almost $13 billion on Motorola, primarily for a patent portfolio that former Motorola CEO Ed Zander kind of scratched his head at two years ago when the deal happened. Google also got to take over a basket case of a bloated company it has had to widdle down and -- to date -- hasn't used in any meaningful day. The best Google products are still ones cranked out internally, for which it didn't need Motorola.

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