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Summary:

Qualcomm just picked up a big trove of mobile-related patents from HP, which could signal a new escalation in the ongoing intellectual property battles in the mobile industry.

Palm Pre

Mobile chip-maker Qualcomm on Thursday announced that it acquired 2,400 issued and pending patents from Hewlett-Packard, including those related to defunct handset maker Palm, which HP acquired in 2010 for $1.2 billion but failed to revive.

The companies announced the deal in a release that did not disclose the price or many other details, beyond the fact that most of the patents were issued in the U.S. and that they cover “technologies that include fundamental mobile operating system techniques.”

The acquisition is likely to have an impact on the ongoing smartphone patent wars, which have taken on a new intensity in light of an Apple-backed consortium’s recent lawsuit campaign against a variety of Android handset makers.

The release does state that the HP deal will add to Qualcomm’s “industry-leading mobile patent portfolio and will enable the company to offer even more value to current and future licensees” — which is another way of saying that other companies operating in the mobile space better duck.

Qualcomm has a controversial history of leveraging its patent portfolio, including a long-running legal battle with Broadcom that led an appeals court to declare that Qualcomm had abused its monopoly over standards-essential “FRAND” patents.

For HP, as my colleague Kevin Tofel recently pointed out, the deal could mean that it recouped at least a good part of its investment in Palm.

  1. Interesting, the mobile patent wars are far from over. Pay very close attention to mobile networking and peer to peer communication. Anyone who owns these patents could dominate the future, especially if it’s a mobile processor maker like Intel, ARM, AMD or Qualcomm. “Hey, we have these patents that cover software or networking on mobile devices. If you use our processor in your design, they’re free, but if you’re using ‘their’ processor, you need to pay us royalties.” Been researching on Google Patents about who has key patents in this space, found some interesting companies with a slew of very good and forward thinking patents. Wouldn’t be surprised if they’re scooped up. I feel Oracle’s acquisition of Tekelec was along these lines but in a different space.

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