Companies that buy up tech patents, then fire off salvos of patent-infringement notices and lawsuits, have been all over the news lately. We’ve already told you about Kodak sitting on a potential three beeeellion dollars worth of digital imaging patents, the Internet reaction to Google snatching up Motorola, and the Nortel patent fire sale — as well as the tiny Blackberry Playbook app developer who got nailed by Lodsys’ claim of patent infringement regarding in-app purchases.
The newest announcement comes from MOSAID Technologies, whose purchase of Luxembourg-based Core Wireless Licensing S.a.r.l. has netted it a portfolio of approximately 2,000 wireless patents and patent applications originally filed by once-dominant cell phone maker Nokia. MOSAID — a self-described licensor of “patented intellectual property in the areas of semiconductors and communications technologies, and develops semiconductor memory technology” — already has a history of past patent suits filed against just about any tech company that comes to mind (a partial list of which includes Dell, HTC, Sony Ericsson, RIM, and Canon).
MOSAID will retain one-third of any monies earned from the patents themselves and/or infringment suits; the balance will be split between Nokia and, surprisingly, Microsoft. It turns out the one-time House of Gates secured access to a number of Nokia patents when the two companies merged earlier this year. Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, phrased it thusly: “[W]e have a passive economic interest in the revenue generated from the licensing of those patents to third parties. The marketplace for intellectual property is incredibly dynamic today, and this agreement is an effective way to make these Nokia innovations available to the industry and to unlock the considerable value of this IP portfolio.” To top things off with a cherry, MOSAID itself is facing a hostile takeover bid from another patent troll…er, licensing company (WiLan), and the belief is that the Core/Nokia patent revenues would aid in their fight not to get engulfed and devoured in turn.
But that still begs the question: why would major companies like Nokia and Microsoft get in bed with the trolls in the first place? Money, money, and more money. As mentioned earlier, Kodak — whose film business is pretty much dead — is parked atop of a potential goldmine in patents that currently aren’t making them any money. By licensing their patents to these aggressive third parties, they can let them do all the dirty work, collect their percentage, and not get their hands dirty.