Could Nokia be the surprise winner of Samsung v Apple?

StephenElopNokiaCEO

When the result of Apple v Samsung came in, it set the technology industry on fire. Did the jury get the decision right? Should a jury have been able to decide the outcome of the case in the first place? What does this mean for Cupertino’s future? For South Korea’s mobile giant?

But amid all the hoopla, there are other players who have a lot to chew over. Just think of the conversations taking place at Google, which as Samsung’s main software partner could be drawing closer to its own action with Apple.

Oh, and then there’s Nokia.

Nokia?

A number of reports are suggesting that the Finnish handset maker — troubled in all sorts of ways — may get a surprising boost from the verdict, because it increases the potential impact of its huge library of mobile patents. Nokia has around 10,000 mobile-related patents behind it, built up over the decades in which it assumed (and then squandered) leadership of the mobile industry.

Apple’s $1 billion win, goes the argument, may give it the chance to exert some of the power locked up inside that vault.

The Wall Street Journal, for example, quotes a series of experts who think Nokia will be rubbing its hands in glee.

“The value of the portfolio may now rise, not least because during the court hearing, Apple brought forward a new Nokia smartphone, which runs on Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Phone operating system, to demonstrate what mobile-phone makers can produce without infringing on Apple’s property rights.

“Apple’s lawyers in the trial against Samsung used new Nokia Lumia devices to illustrate that it is possible to make mobile phones clearly different from Apple’s iPhone,” said Sydbank analyst Morten Imsgaard.

Meanwhile others point out that it could help Nokia claw back its place as the world’s biggest handset manufacturer, a position it lost earlier this year. Not only does Samsung have to start worrying at length about aggravating Apple further, but Nokia, remember, effectively won its own legal action against Apple last summer.

MarketWatch, meanwhile mentions the idea that OEMs worried about Android support could shift to Windows Phone, which could in turn help Nokia by grabbing more market share for Microsoft’s operating system and, ultimately, making it easier for new users to come to the platform.

Sami Sarkamies and Daniel Djurberg, senior technology analysts at Nordea, said in a research note on Monday that the ruling is positive for Nokia and Microsoft but that it’s unlikely to change the landscape overnight and not even dramatically in comparison with the situation today.

This is being presented as a big secret, but the truth is that it doesn’t look like much of a secret at all: investors have clearly cottoned on to this thread, and Nokia’s stock price has been climbing since the verdict came in. They hope, I imagine, that Nokia can offset its losses by flexing its patent portfolio and start the comeback in earnest.

But while the promise of jam tomorrow might help Wall Street’s sensibilities, the reality is that it’s a long, long game that is far from sure. Does Nokia have the time, or the inclination, to wait for the world to change?

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