Feature Article

October 24, 2013

Hewlett-Packard Apparently Looking to Sell Mobile Patents

There is no denying that patents are a valuable commodity for any company. They always have been and when it comes to mobile patents, well, we have quite a few lawsuits in the past couple of years. These days computing and mobile devices mostly rely on technology developed by a variety of inventors. That makes patents a very valuable currency.

A few years ago, Google agreed to pay $12.5 billion in order to buy Motorola Mobility. This purchase was largely a play for its patents. Apple and Microsoft led a consortium that paid $4.5 billion for more than 6,000 Nortel Networks Corp. patents in 2011.

In an effort to try and strengthen Hewlett-Packard’s financial position, CEO Meg Whitman is on a search for buyers. What’s for sale? Hewlett-Packard wants to sell off some of its mobile computing patents. This is an attempt to recover from several years of management mayhem.

It has not helped the world’s second largest PC manufacturer that it is also suffering from declining sales and profits. The company has made some rather bad acquisitions that have only added to the turmoil. In her third year as CEO, Whitman is trying to alleviate some of the revenue issues.

Due to the fact that private conversations are currently in the works, people have asked that they not be identified. However, Hewlett-Packard has approached potential buyers about its portfolio of patents. Of of these patents relate to WebOS. This is the smartphone and Tablet OS that was acquired through the acquisition of Palm Inc. in 2010.

In the past, Hewlett-Packard had restrictions on its patents. This made them less attractive to prospective buyers. It seems that in the past couple of months Hewlett-Packard has had a change of heart and removed some of the restrictions. The removal of some of the restrictions has made the purchase of the patents more acceptable to potential buyers. It will have the added effect of being to ask for a higher price for the patents.

Initially Whitman turned WebOS, which was specifically designed for smartphones and tablets, into an open-source software project. It was then rebranded it as a wholly owned subsidiary called Gram. The operating system’s code was then sold to LG Electronics earlier this year.

Although, under the deal that sold Gram to LG, Hewlett-Packard retained the patents for WebOS and licensed them to LG. According to one of the un-named people with knowledge, the agreement would be unlikely to encumber Hewlett-Packard’s ability to sell its WebOS patents.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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