Google has held preliminary discussions with InterDigital Inc., a Pennsylvania-based wireless patent firm, about a possible acquisition. The move by Google is seen as an attempt by the company to add some meat to their thin wireless patent portfolio. InterDigital owns about 8,800 patents that, according to the Wall Street Journal, focus mostly on wireless data transmission, in-call noise cancellation and handset technology.
With Google’s Android mobile operating system gaining market share daily, the search giant increasingly becomes a target for intellectual property lawsuits, especially with a small arsenal of patents in their portfolio to defend themselves with. Google was previously beat out by Apple, Microsoft and RIM in a bid to purchase what some called a treasure trove of right and patents to wireless and information technology.
Nortel Network Corp. put up its portfolio of over 6,000 patents in a bankruptcy auction that Google left a $900 million bid for. The final selling price was five times higher at $4.5 billion, with Apple, Microsoft and RIM splitting up the assets among themselves.
For the major players in wireless technology, it’s less a question of what technology they are capable of creating and more one of what they can actually get away with selling. With patents available for sale and exchange, they’ve become indicative of a company’s clout in the market. A more powerful portfolio can be used with litigation as a weapon, as seen in battles between Apple and Samsung, and Apple and Nokia. The end goal in such patent litigation is to either force a monetary settlement, hurting another company’s bottom line, or legally eliminate portions of their own patent portfolio, thus limiting their ability and reach in the market.
Google’s attempt at wooing InterDigital after missing a great opportunity in the Nortel bankruptcy auction is telling in that is shows the search giant feels it needs to beef up its portfolio to continue building the Android ecosystem. But in the modern wireless realm, that’s just the way business works.