Tuesday, August 18, 2009

InterDigital loses key patent case

On Friday, InterDigital lost an effort to enforce four key 3G patents on Nokia’s cellphones.

Of course, IDCC will appeal. Company supporters hope IDCC can win a favorable settlement — as it did with Samsung.

I don’t see a settlement in the cards. As the world’s largest cellphone maker — and thus the largest royalty target — Nokia has been playing hardball all the way. Of course, in 2008 Nokia settled its war with Qualcomm, on very favorable terms.

My sense is that Nokia places a much greater value on the Qualcomm patent portfolio — or at least considers it impossible to work around all their IP without getting some sort of license.

In the face of a precedent that (if sustained) could begin to destroy its business model, IDCC shares lost 23% of their value on Monday and were essentially flat Tuesday. This seems a little optimistic.

Barron’s reports:
Hilliard Lyons analyst Tom Carpenter maintains his bullish stance on InterDigital despite the setback at the ITC. Carpenter notes that Nokia could still lose on appeal, which could trigger a licensing deal between the two companies. He thinks Nokia could still end up paying IDCC 35 cents per handset, or as much as $300 million over five years.

Even if the company fails to win on appeal, Carpenter contends IDCC’s patent portfolio could make it a potential acquisition target for Research in Motion (RIMM), Cisco (CSCO) or even Nokia. The potential appeal: IDCC holds a large number of patents on LTE, the 4G transmission technology that has been adopted by most wireless carriers.
While I understand the large pool of IDCC bulls, I don’t get this, either. I guess it all depends whether you consider this court case a fluke, or representative of the quality of the rest of its patent portfolio.

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