Is patent peace approaching? Unlikely.
Wars of all kinds are ready to end when the cost of continuing the conflict exceeds the benefits that can be gained. Even then, the passions of conflict will take time to cool. The heart will keep killing until the head makes it stop.
In the case of the international patent system, FOSSPatents' Florian Mueller estimates the parties are spending "hundreds of millions" of dollars, each year, in court.
Sounds like a lot of money but, to these players, it's a rounding error. Google earned $2.89 billion in the last three months, Oracle $2.5 billion, and Apple $11.62 billion. Spread a few hundred million dollars across that crowd and it's not even tip money.
Besides, patent litigation on this scale has serious benefits. For one thing, it's a lottery ticket. A big win can do more for the bottom line, and the stock price, than any new product. Oracle is up 1% today on speculation it might win against Google, based on interpretations of the judge's instructions. That's $1.5 billion in market cap, on speculation.
Such speculation can also hide bad news, like the fact that IBM (IBM) just made SugarCRM, an open source vendor, a serious player in the CRM space by replacing its Oracle-Siebel system with one from sugar. Gains by open source and SaaS vendors like Salesforce.com (CRM) are a much bigger threat to Oracle's long-term health than Google's "theft" of Java, assuming the APIs it used are subject to copyright at all.
Being seen walking into court as an aggrieved party is also great PR. Here Oracle is, getting hammered by open source, yet it's on the verge of a multi-billion dollar victory (maybe) over licensing a product available under the General Public License, simply by asserting copyright on the tools used to work with it. Nice.
In Apple's case, the benefits are equally clear. It is clearly stating, in court, loud enough for any buyer to hear, that anything without the Apple name is a cheap knock-off, a copy. How much is that worth? You don't think Chinese consumers didn't hear Apple's message in a German court? I do.
Until all sides are hurt badly enough to want to stop the patent fight, in other words, the patent fight will go on.