The behind-the-scenes smartphone wars are getting a little more cordial. Rockstar Consortium, a group made up of Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson and Sony, has agreed to sell $900 million worth of patents (about 4,000 in total) to RPX subsidiary RPX Clearinghouse. The purpose of the transaction is to license the patents to companies like Google and Cisco and, in turn, end all existing lawsuits filed by Rockstar.
The news is surprising given the investment put into the more than 6,000 patents originally purchased by Rockstar; the group originally purchased the full portfolio from Nortel Networks Inc. back in 2011 for $4.5 billion.
“This is the biggest syndicate of its kind and its formation proves that companies can actually collaborate in… cooperative licensing at scale,” said John Amster, RPX’s chief executive.
In addition to licensing the patents to companies like Google, RPX will also license them to outside companies under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. Before today, the Rockstar group sued the search giant and several other Android manufacturers for infringing on patents; some lawsuits were settled before today’s news, though the sale to RPX about settles everything. Some of the remaining suits were against Samsung, LG, HTC and Huawei.
Patent lawsuits have become commonplace in the wireless industry, with the most high-profile case involving Apple and Samsung. The sale to RPX should cut back on the amount of patent lawsuits altogether.