John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

RIM Gets a Brief Bit of Breathing Room From Apple-Samsung Verdict

Apple’s sweeping patent victory Friday over Samsung is a real and obvious boon for the iPhone maker, which saw its share price chart a new record high on Monday. But it’s also proving to be something of a windfall for a few of Apple’s disadvantaged rivals. Research In Motion, for example, saw its long-suffering shares close up nearly 2 percent Monday, after spiking as much as 5 percent earlier in the day.

Evidently, investors feel that Apple’s win over Samsung is enough of a blow to the company and the broader Android ecosystem that it will de facto benefit RIM.

Which is a reasonable assumption. Now that the patents Apple asserted against Samsung are trial-tested and proven, other Android handset manufacturers are going to take a good, long look at their smartphone designs to make sure that they, too, don’t end up opposite Apple in the courtroom. And that’s going to slow their time to market, giving RIM a bit more breathing room to launch its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system. If Apple wins injunctive relief against Samsung, and is able to halt sales of infringing devices, RIM stands to benefit even more.

As Baird Equity analyst William Power told AllThingsD, “Depending on the level of product injunctions, it could open up opportunities for competing platforms like Blackberry and Windows.”

More crucially, the verdict in this case could increase the value of RIM’s patent portfolio, making it a more attractive acquisition target. Earlier this year, RIM’s collection of wireless patents was valued at between $1 billion and $2.5 billion. Now that Apple has won this landmark victory over Samsung, that price could rise. Certainly, it’s conceivable that mobile companies searching for some good defensive patents with which to bolster their own portfolios might look to an industry pioneer like RIM for such intellectual property. Google did as much with Motorola Mobility, and the price of that acquisition topped out at $12.5 billion.

Of course, RIM’s patent portfolio is largely untested by litigation. Indeed, RIM’s one big patent battle, with holding company NTP, ended with the BlackBerry maker being forced to pay a $612.5 million settlement. And therein lies the problem. RIM’s patents may not be protection enough to defend against companies like Apple and Microsoft that have big IP portfolios with keystone patents.

So in the end, RIM — after the brief window of opportunity afforded it by Apple’s victory over Samsung — may end up exactly where it is now.

Said Power, “Ultimately, we expect the Android players to identify workarounds or seek a negotiated settlement with Apple, resulting in a competitive environment similar to today. And that means continued challenges for RIM.”

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