Hewlett-Packard Unloads 2,400 Mobile Patents and Patent Applications to Qualcomm

By Tony Rizzo January 24, 2014

Qualcomm is looking to more deeply increase its overall penetration into mobile markets. The company is already a key vendor of wireless radios and processors for mobile phones and tablets. And of course it has also recently begun to deliver its own mobile/wearable products, such as the Toq smartwatch. Granted, the Toq is really a reference design for its Mirasol display technology, but one never knows how things may ultimately develop.

It may very well make sense then that Qualcomm has now acquired 2,400 mobile technology patents and patent applications from Hewlett-Packard. We're not sure Qualcomm acquired them so much as we see it as HP having finally managed to unload them. The patents all stem from some of HP's higher profile failures - from Compaq iPaqs (some of which, amazingly, still exist!) to Bitfone (who remembers this one?) mobile device management and finally the truly ill-fated, Palm and Palm OS/webOS acquisition.

As HP continues to search for a new raison d'etre, it has been assiduously working to rid itself of anything and everything that it and its management team, led by Meg Whitman, deem to be non-core to HP's future. As part of this divestiture, HP is getting rid of 1,400 United States patents and applications and another 1,000 from other countries. It is a sad thing to see for those of us who have long admired HP but as well for those of us who have been sorely disappointed at how HP managed to destroy various mobile opportunities it had in hand dating back to 2010 on the Palm front and many years earlier on the iPaq front.

We have no idea how much Qualcomm may have shelled out for the portfolio - the price was not disclosed by either company - but we suspect it is safe to say it had to be a fire sale on HP's side - sort of Qualcomm doing some shopping at the Goodwill for old technology that may still have a bit of life left to it. As an aside and a tip, if you ever need to find a working VHS player (maybe to convert all of your father's old tapes he took of your daughter from when she was born to roughly 8 years old) - well, the Goodwill is the place to go. Surely this Qualcomm acquisition falls exactly into this realm.

Having a significant collection of mobile patents in one's portfolio in this day and age can serve two purposes. First, it may provide some set of defenses against other companies swooping in with patent infringement claims. And it may very well provide some offensive capabilities - such as reaching out to obtain "friendly" patent licensing fees from a lot of vendors who might be caught unaware of infringements.

Qualcomm's lawyers will no doubt spend (or have already spent) significant quality time with the portfolio to make such determinations. Many, if not most, of these patents are simply going to be basic FRAND patents but may be useful to ensure Qualcomm can gain some cross-licensing leverage and patent deals (think of this as defensive) with competitors who may have potentially real or perceived infringement claims. For all we know Qualcomm has a slew of such letters in hand from competitors - and competitors may now get the same from Qualcomm. It is how the game is mostly played. Unless you happen to be Apple or Samsung.

We will note that shelling out $12 billion for Motorola Mobility (which many of us mostly believe was a purchase of its patent portfolio for both defensive and offensive possibilities) hasn't helped Google to either defend itself or go on the offensive against anyone. Meanwhile, Microsoft - in one of the mobile industry's great ironies - continues to pull in upwards of over $3 billion a year in Android licensing fees based on old patents it holds.

Perhaps this is what Qualcomm is really hoping for. Good luck hunting!




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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