The past few weeks of the Norfolk lawsuit has been interesting for industry watchers and courthouse groupies, it has been nail-bitingly engrossing for Vringo (NASDAQ:VRNG) longs and only slightly annoying for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) veterans.
At one time I held the opinion that a loss would be a watershed moment for Google. Now, after having the opportunity to study this more closely, especially keeping in mind that for Vringo, patent litigation is a business model based on profit and not on archaic questions of justice, I think the outcome of this case will not have much impact on Google's bottom line, or its technology, or its business model of questionable intellectual property appropriation standards.
This, I think, was the reason Google even bothered to go to trial at all. They knew a loss would have little financial impact - they would simply pay a very, very small part of their profits and move on. A win, on the other hand, would have a significant moral impact. It will tell the industry that ordinary people find patent trolling more reprehensible than patent infringement. It will tell the industry that people will not accept patent trolling as a viable business model.
Google's business model is located in a very grey area of the intellectual property universe. Its Google Books, Google News, YouTube, its search engine results, and even its technology has often come under IP litigation scanner. Right now, we are seeing how in France a group of newspapers and publishers are protesting against its news presentations. We just watched Google settle with a group of publishers led by McGraw-Hill (MHP) in re its Google Books application. If so many people perceive Google as "stealing IP," common sense cannot rule out a considerable possibility.
As against that, trolling of any sort is generally considered "somehow wrong."
However, we need to remember that trolling is less egregious if real victims are involved, as opposed to legal victims. In the former case, justice is poetic, while in the latter, it is merely noetic. In this instance, therefore, we must not forget that Ken Lang and David Kosak are real victims of Google's alleged infringement. These guys spent sixteen years watching Google make billions from inventions they created, without paying them even a modicum of acknowledgement for their work.
Vringo's win in this case will have unprecedented moral impact on their future litigation efforts; which will doubtless convert into a tidy source of income. The best outcome for Vringo will be that its IP litigation model of business will have been vilified in a court of law, no less. I can see the following positives for Vringo as a result:
Vringo will acquire more patents from Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and/or other parties and basically work as their contracted IP litigation team.
Vringo will get into a long term licensing situation with Google.
Vringo will win a little more concession from Google against an agreement not to pursue the controversial Jackson ruling on laches in appeals court.
If Vringo wins, and if all or most of the above things happen, I see Vringo scaling back to $5 levels within days of monies being arranged from Google, $10 levels after a New Year high and more settlement rumors/news, going up, perhaps, to $15 and even $20 if it can get into more settlements with other biggies like MSFT etc, but steadying eventually at around $12 levels once the momentum is over and reality settles in over the next 6-8 months. Trading as it is at less than $3 now, that is considerable ROI for investors. My figures are based on current valuation of the company and approximate settlement amounts; let me call that "founded" expectation.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.