But it's not just those who want to use the patents, or guard against litigation on their products, that are buying up IP. According to Holden, there's a growing secondary market in patents, where they're traded like any other asset.
"The whole ecosystem is growing quite rapidly," he said.
However, Ralph Eckardt, managing partner of 3LP Advisors, said in his part of the patent price bubble webinar that a separation had to be made between the big-bucks acquisitions like Nortel and Google hoovering up Motorola Mobility, and the asset-trading IP sales.
"These deals shouldn't be correlated with trading deals, these are more about strategic positioning," Eckardt, whose company designs and executes transactions involving IP assets, said.
Distribution of LTE (4G mobile tech) patents among the players.
"When we think about strategy, these deals are all about positioning in the marketplace for phones and tablets and about market share, they're not really about exclusion."
In the old days, according to Eckardt, the best route to cost competitiveness in the tech sector was scale - get big quick to reap the cost benefits. But nowadays, IP is the issue that's important to keep costs down.
"For example, if Android is free and it's going to continue to be free, what chance does Microsoft have? How can it possibly compete?" he asked. "But if you force the users of Android to pay, you make Microsoft cost-competitive. IP can be used to dramatically change the cost structure."
And this is the issue that most of the regular punters want to know about, are these patent battles going to drive up the cost of the handsets for the users? Will you be forking out twice as much to lay hands on the iPhone 6 or the Galaxy Nexus 3?
PWC's Sutton says price rises are a possibility, although he feels that competition will keep the jump from being too high.
"I think there'll be a short term impact on prices but it's still going to be a hugely competitive market - where volume of handsets is important, I think there'll still be strong price competition. I wouldn't be too pessimistic about the impact on prices," he says.
The other major issue is that the phones will get crappier because patent wars are stifling innovation, but Sutton doesn't subscribe to this either.
"A lot of people have talked about it being bad for innovation but I think the ability to enforce patents is a core aspect of what drives people to invest the huge sums of money that they do in R&D," he says. "And ultimately that will be of benefit to the end user, even if in the short term there is an increase in prices as some of the litigation is settled in the form of higher licence payments by some of the makers."
If you're looking for any more variation than the big three - Apple, Android and to a lesser extent Microsoft - you might be out of luck though.
The simple fact is, all of the current smartphones are built on top of each other in one way or another (we'll leave it to the courts to unpick exactly how), which means the patents being fought over now are quite likely to decide how the market looks for the foreseeable future.
You know, the guy who stole all of Tesla's ideas and patented them?
patents worked well until the rules were broken
Prior to the US and EU patent offices discarding the rules of the patent game, the system was quite stable. They did so on their own, with the help of the "patent community" i.e. patent attorneys who profit from there being more patents. It was done without any legitimacy at all but for some obscure reason, US courts sided with the USPTO and the EU patent office started to ape them. Could it be that courts and patent offices are run by legal experts, the same that profit from there being more patents ?
To sum up the situation before, a patent had to describe a physical invention, i.e. the embodiment of an idea into a physical machine. And the invention had to be non-obvious for the man of the art. The "physical" part was not there to exclude software, but to exclude theories, mathematical formulas or other pure ideas.
So for example, you could not patent centrifugal succion by itself (when you rotate a cylinder, the centrifugal force creates a gradient of pressure inside, with low pressure - succion - in the middle). You could however patent a centrifugal pump, or a centrifugal succion cleaning machine.
The system stood on good legs: ideas were assimilated to science where publication is the norm. Patent protection was deemed necessary only when a specific implementation of an idea was considered because it required setting a manufacturing operation into motion which requires time. The protection provided the time.
Benefit for investors: possibility to implement and productize.
Benefit for society: inventions are described publically and become public after a period of exclusivity
The USPTO first abolished the first rule by allowing patents on pure ideas which created a flood of over broad patents since no specific implementation was required. The "one-click" patent was born and patent trolls followed. Under the volume, it was forced to abolish the second principle too because it did not have the resources to asses non-obviousness anymore.
Again, the goal was plain and simple: more patents of lesser quality results in more patent litigation and counseling hence more money for the "patent community", which is why the "patent community" did it.
Such is the sad story of the biggest "robbery of the 20th century".
It also shows us the way back to normal: reinstate the old rules.
Impose severe fines for willfully omitting prior art. I'm amazed at the number of times a patent article comes up and people in a matter of google minutes are able to find prior art that completely implements (and therefore invalidates as non-original) the patent
Not so much a bubble as a mine-field.
The problem with a lot of the patents is that they are not innovative and what they cover is obvious to experts in the domain of the patent. The people evaluating the initial validity of the patents are not experts in the domains of those patents
The patent system is an unmitigated disaster
I thought this report would be about the costs of the patent system itself, rather than the cost of patents. It is currently just a mechanism by which tech companies can whack each other on the head, and 'non-practising entities' can whack all tech companies on the head.
It would be better if the patent system was destroyed, root and branch, than if it continued in it's present form.