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.
Don't forget Sanjay Jha, Motorola's CEO at the time of the deal. He inherited a huge albatross when he took over this company. Where would Motorola be today if Google hadn't bought it? Likely gone. Instead, Jha is sipping pina coladas by the pool. Tim Armstrong of AOL ( AOL). Huh? It's true. Armstrong parlayed the patent skirmish between Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Facebook ( FB) into a $1.1 billion patent deal to Microsoft, which in turn sold half the portfolio to Facebook. That sale price was as large as AOL's market cap at the time. AOL's stock went up over 40% the day that deal to the low $20s. It was on its way to over $40 in the months to come. No one has monetized their patent portfolio (from a percentage basis) than Tim Armstrong. Game. Set. Match. Don't forget that Microsoft has done well for itself forcing all the little Android makers to pay it a toll for each handset sold. That's a nice little revenue stream for Redmond. The patent wars have certainly not played out the way Steve Jobs or anyone else would have predicted back in 2007 -- or even in 2011. At the time of publication the author was long YHOO, BBRY and AAPL. Follow @ericjackson This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.