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Apple, Google and Samsung fight for 8,800 mobile patents

Interdigital portfolio could be worth over $5bn
Wed Aug 03 2011, 13:25

MOBILE TECHNOLOGY OUTFITS Apple, Google and Samsung are in a bidding war for a massive collection of mobile phone patents owned by Interdigital.

The patents relate to mobile technology for the transfer of information, an important area in the smartphone arena that could see the successful bidder enhance its legal position in internet and telephone communications technology.

The portfolio of 8,800 patents could earn Interdigital over $5bn, according to analysts, as the major technology players have proven their interest in patent collections recently, such as in the squabble for Nortel's extensive patent library and Google's subsequent acquisition of 1,000 IBM patents.

In addition to Apple, Google and Samsung, there are other potential bidders who have not yet been identified, according to the anonymous sources close to Bloomberg. This could create an even bigger competition and a larger payment to Interdigital.

It's likely that Samsung has expressed interest largely because Apple has, as the two companies are at each other's throats in a heated patents dispute, which recently saw Samsung delay the launch of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia.

"Interdigital has a lot of key patents," Lee Seung Woo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities told Bloomberg. "The fight between Apple and Samsung is getting serious, so if the assets go to Apple, it could be pretty risky for Samsung. To hedge the risk, Samsung could go ahead with bidding, although they may have to pay a big premium."

Google is also in a patents row with Oracle over its Android mobile operating system, but that litigation relates more to Java software than smartphone technology patents. However, its failed bid for Nortel's patents might mean it's a lot more keen on being successful this time around. It will be particularly intent on ensuring that Apple, a primary rival, does not win the bid, and could even team up with its ally Samsung to make a joint bid.

Interdigital's CEO, William Merritt, said that its porfolio is "deeper and stronger" than that of Nortel, which means we'll likely see a pitched battle between major mobile technology players over the coming weeks and months. µ


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