Published: 18 August, 2011
Now that Google is no longer desperately seeking a patent portfolio, we might expect the IPR bubble to deflate. InterDigital, in particular, will be disappointed that it did not secure the Google billions, especially as it would have represented a far simpler purchase for the search giant, without the complications of a hardware business. The patent giant is still in play though, with Nokia and Qualcomm possibly among the stalkers.
According to the Reuters news agency, these two wireless patent powerhouses are part of a long list of suitors for InterDigital, and an auction is set to be held just after Labor Day. The date has reportedly been put back from next week to give interested parties more time to conduct due diligence.
Some analysts think Google could still bid, and it has not yet withdrawn its statement of interest. However, a purchase would surely be overkill on top of its $12.5bn Motorola Mobility takeover and its previous acquisition of a range of IBM patents. Apple and Samsung are also in the frame, say observers, for obvious reasons given their current legal stand-offs.
InterDigital, Qualcomm, Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola were the dominant owners of essential IPR in 2G and 3G standards, though their influence is likely to be diluted in LTE, where Samsung, Huawei and others have a greater stake. If Nokia or Qualcomm were to succeed, either would enhance their position in wireless specific IPR, though not in the software and user experience technologies that increasingly drive mobile power. A Nokia win would indirectly hit at Apple and Android because of the firm's closeness to WP7 and Microsoft.
Qualcomm would be neutral in terms of the current IPR wars, and it is a sign of the new mobile order that the prospect of its victory seems appealing, because if would help halt the escalation of the Google-Apple-Microsoft landgrab. In the past, any addition to Qualcomm's massive patent power was viewed with widespread suspicion, but it has been strangely quiet during the recent IPR dramas, and now appears as a voice of reason, a company which works with all handset camps and, at least, uses most of its patents to innovate, not only to hurl at rivals.
The wireless giants may be consolidating their IPR holdings, but a similar process is going on way down the food chain among the trolls. Two of the most litigious of these non-practising patent holders, Wi-Lan and Mosaid, are to merge. Wi-Lan has made an all-cash offer for its fellow Canadian company, for about US$490m. Its main holdings are in wireless technologies while Mosaid is stronger in semiconductor and memory patents. Excluding the cash on Mosaid's balance sheet, Wi-Lan said the offer represents a premium of about 31% over the closing price for Mosaid's shares on Wednesday.
"We will be presenting this offer directly to Mosaid shareholders for their consideration as we strongly believe that the complementary patent portfolios, diverse licensing programs, experienced teams and innovative research and development of Wi-Lan and Mosaid make this a compelling combination," said Wi-Lan CEO Jim Skippen. The combined firm would have over 4,200 patents and Skippen himself spent a decade as an executive at Mosaid.