Shareholders and would-be shareholders of Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS) are surely hoping that the company has a better 2012 than 2011. The company's stock slid 63% last year.

The company specializes in developing and licensing patented technologies for digital electronic products. It's also very experienced in suing others for patent infringement and other causes -- so much so that some have accused it of overdoing it.

Indeed, in the past year the company filed suits against chip designers and makers such as Broadcom, NVIDIA, Micron Technology (NYSE: MU), and Hynix. Its antitrust case against Micron and Hynix lasted many years and held the promise of $12 billion dollars, if it ended up victorious. But that didn't happen, and the stock plunged 60% on the negative verdict, before regaining some ground. The company may still appeal the decision, so this case may drag on much longer. In the meantime, there are other lawsuits and new ones will likely be filed.

Shopping and growing
Aside from suing others, though, Rambus does also develop technologies, and it profits by licensing them. The company has been acquiring others to help broaden its scope, expanding into cryptography, for example, by buying Cryptography Research for $342 million. It also bought lighting and display technology from Imagine Designs. In partnership with General Electric (NYSE: GE), Rambus has been developing LED lighting technologies.

As long as the company isn't overpaying for its acquisitions, it's likely to boost its bottom line eventually. Its growth into new areas of operation is also promising, as is its ramped-up research and development spending -- though it still lags behind many peers in R&D spending.

Another important factor influencing the company's future is its licensing agreements. In 2011, the company announced patent licensing renewals from Toshiba and Panasonic. Those interested in Rambus may want to keep an eye out for additional agreements.

The future
It's also instructive to see what's expected of the company by Wall Street. Here are some numbers of interest:

Fiscal 2011 EPS Estimate

($0.13)

Fiscal 2012 EPS Estimate

$0.06

Expected Annual Growth, Next 5 Years

10%

Forward P/E

134

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

**

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Based on these factors and numbers, Rambus seems a mixed bag as an investment candidate for 2012. There's plenty of cause for optimism, but right now its stock price doesn't seem like the biggest bargain. In addition, like it or not, Rambus' future is very tied to its legal fortunes.

This is not a stock for the weak-hearted or impatient. If you're really interested, dig deeper into it. But know, too, that there are plenty of compelling stocks out there.

Looking for promising investments? Here are " 5 Stocks with Explosive Potential " and " 4 Stocks as Cheap as They've Ever Been ."

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see her holdings and a short bio. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of NVIDIA. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing puts in NVIDIA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.