Frost & Sullivan's Gruia also points to the emergence of companies like RPX ( RPXC), which offers "defensive patent buying" and "patent intelligence" on behalf of a growing number of tech companies, including Intel, Sony ( SNE), Research In Motion ( RIMM), Nokia and Juniper ( JNPR).

RPX, based in San Francisco, went public last month, and Gruia says it and fellow patent specialist Acacia Research Group, part of Acacia Research Corp. ( ACTG), reflect a bigger trend.

"It's interesting, because this market barely existed 10 years ago," said the analyst, noting that the so-called invention capital market is growing at a rate of 25% to 30% a year.

RPX is said to be involved in the Nortel auction, but the company declined to comment when contacted by TheStreet.

As for Apple's ongoing patent battle with Samsung, General Patent Corp.'s Poltorak said that he would be amazed if the companies end up in front of a judge -- Apple is one of the Korean firm's biggest customers.

"They can't afford to ruin that business relationship; it's symbiotic, it benefits both companies," he said, adding that the firms are indulging in some old-fashioned strategic bravado. "Both companies are positioning, they are posturing to get the best cross-licensing deal."

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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