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Apple and Google may buy InterDigital in mobile patent war

updated 05:15 pm EDT, Wed July 20, 2011

Apple and Google mull buying InterDigital

Apple and Google are considering exploiting InterDigital's attempt to sell itself off to get the upper hand in their mobile patent disputes, a source divulged Wednesday. The two are candidates along with others to buy the company and get access to its 1,300 phone-related patents. It wasn't evident from Bloomberg sources how serious either side was or which if any was in the lead to win.

None of those involved would directly comment. InterDigital chairman Terry Clontz, however, hinted in a statement on Tuesday morning that he wanted to court Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other major phone OS developers looking for patents. He was "optimistic" the company didn't have to sell but saw a chance to profit.

"Over the past year we have seen the value of intellectual property rise substantially as major players in the mobile industry increasingly understand the strategic and economic value of this type of asset," Clontz said.

InterDigital operates in a nebulous space for patent holders. It makes no meaningful products of its own but does genuine research. Mobile device makers have considered the company a nuisance, however, as it has had a tendency to accuse companies of violating patents despite independent developments, such as Nokia or Samsung.

Apple would be one of the strongest candidates as it could use the patents to further pressure Android device makers or else defend itself against attacks. InterDigital's win over Samsung may be very relevant as it's embroiled in countering lawsuits where InterDigital patents could be used to force Samsung into a settlement.

Google, meanwhile, may see the patents as an opportunity to atone for its own lack of patents to protect Android. Many have argued that Google blew its Nortel patent bid by letting an Apple-led coalition get access to 6,000 patents. Without a significant catalog, Google has had to sit and watch as many of its partners are sued for allegedly violating patents simply by using Android.

Microsoft hasn't been mentioned but could be a candidate given its anti-Android shakedown campaign, where it has claimed inherent ownership of Android technology and threatened lawsuits or steep royalties to companies that don't use Windows Phone.

by MacNN Staff



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