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January 24, 2014

Wheelings & Dealings: Should Mobile Makers Fear Qualcomm's New Patents?

Computer vendors fight with technology, marketing and sales. But just as often they do battle with patents. Just look at all the grief Samsung has put Apple through over the iPhone.

Well, this week struggling hardware giant HP sold off a rash of patents to Qualcomm (News - Alert), patents relating to the iPaq, Palm and Bitfone device management.

Why is this important? Often vendors buy patents to protect themselves. If vendor A sues vendor B over a patent, and vendor B has patents that vendor A violated, the whole issue is moot. Some buy patents for more predatory reasons, simply to sue to gain royalties on something someone else sells. This technique is best embodied by so-called patent trolls whose only reason for existing is to sue over claimed patent infringements.

Qualcomm is now sitting on some 1,400 U.S. patents and another 1,000 in other countries.

Some may be quite broad; the way Apple once sued Microsoft (News - Alert) for using overlapping windows. In fact, Qualcomm says it has patents that cover “fundamental mobile operating system techniques.” If Qualcomm gets aggressive, it could be a headache for hundreds of companies in the mobile space.

But Qualcomm put on a positive spin, arguing it can now “offer even more value to current and future licensees.” While these patents seem to relate to older, in some cases defunct products, they may be broad enough to cover more modern gear.

At the same time, this intellectual property could allow Qualcomm to get more aggressive in building mobile devices and components.

We’re sure the lawyers and technologists will be busy sorting this all out.

Microsoft Buys Nokia (News - Alert) Patent Muscle

Late last year Microsoft announced plans to buy Nokia’s phone business for $5 billion. But that wasn’t all the folks from Redmond wanted. Microsoft plans to spend an extra $2.2 billion to gain Nokia patents. If Qualcomm lawyers come knocking on Microsoft’s door, the software giant will have plenty of ammo to fight back with, and would likely enter into a patent sharing agreement.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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