Qualcomm buys 2,400 mobile patents, applications from HP

The maker of mobile chips and now smartwatches, too, gets itself a much larger war chest for patent lawsuits or cross-licensing deals.

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Stephen Shankland/CNET

Qualcomm has acquired 2,400 patents and patent applications relating to Hewlett-Packard's mobile technology, the companies announced Friday.

The acquisition includes about 1,400 patents and applications from the United States and about 1,000 from other countries. The patents are from ill-fated mobile efforts at HP -- the iPaq handheld device, the Palm business it bought in 2010, and the Bitfone mobile device management software.

"The company may be looking through its assets to determine those that may be non-core," said Wells Fargo Securities analyst Maynard Um in a research note. "We believe HP will look to focus on divesting its non-core assets in FY2014...and increase its focus on the core business segments. We believe these divestitures will help strengthen HP's cash balance, which could be utilized for share repurchases and/or strategic tuck-in acquisitions."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition is significant given the storm of patent infringement litigation that has swept across the mobile industry. Qualcomm is a top manufacturer of processors for mobile phones and tablets, but it's also begun making completed hardware products of the town mainly the Toq smart watch.

Having a large mass of patents can mean a stronger offense or defense in any patent suits or negotiations about them. It also can lead to more favorable terms in less acrimonious situations such as patent cross-licensing deals, in which companies pay one another for rights to use each other's patented technology.

Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, has been struggling to stabilize its business after years of turmoil. The company acquired Palm and its WebOS-powered devices for a push into the mobile market, but abandoned that effort just as it began in earnest. Now, however, it's trying again with Android-based products.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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