When you walk into the lobby of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), you will notice the scores of patents on the walls. It's a clear indication that, in the modern world, wealth is not about tangible assets like factories or land; instead, it's from intangible assets, such as software code, chip designs, and hardware configurations.

So it should be of no surprise that fights over intellectual property (IP) can be fierce and high-stakes. A prime example is SCO Group's (NASDAQ:SCOX) $5 billion suit against IBM (NYSE:IBM) and others for alleged infringement on copyrights affecting the Linux operating system.

In fact, there are companies that produce nothing but litigation to get licensing fees from IP violators. One such company is NTP, whose founder was the late Thomas Campana, a well-known inventor.

There are 50 patents in Campana's name, but the five patents he filed in the early 1990s are the critical ones. Late last year, a district court ruled that Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry device was in violation of the patents and issued an injunction to prevent the sale of the product in the U.S. Research In Motion appealed and was granted a stay from the injunction.

No doubt, Research In Motion's BlackBerry device has become a must-have item for more and more people. And the company's stock price has soared as a result.

But to continue the growth, Research In Motion needs to partner with big distribution partners. However, with the uncertainty of the NTP lawsuit, it is not easy to sign on partners. It's a classic catch-22.

So, sometimes it makes sense to cave in and go for the growth, even if certain patent holders get paid along the way. Last week, Nokia (NYSE:NOK) agreed to license the patents from NTP to distribute the BlackBerry in the U.S.

Ironically, Research In Motion's management trumpeted the move -- as it should. The deal means much more market penetration. But, on the other hand, isn't this implicit acknowledgement of the validity of the NTP patents? A court might think so.

Settling the lawsuit seems to make a lot of sense. Simply put, there is too much demand for the BlackBerry. Stubbornly fighting over patent rights will only delay the growth for Research In Motion -- and it seems that management implicitly agrees.

Fool contributor Tom Taulli is the author of The EDGAR Online Guide to Decoding Financial Statements . He does not own shares in any of the stocks mentioned.