Report: Google considers InterDigital buy

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is in talks to buy InterDigital, which has a valuable mobile patent portfolio

InterDigital on Tuesday said it was considering selling the company, and now the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, said Google is interested in scooping up the mobile chip technology developer.

An InterDigital acquisition could help Google bolster its patent holdings at a time when its Android mobile operating system is under heavy attack. Giants with far stronger patent positions than Google including Microsoft, Apple and Oracle are suing Google and Android phone makers for alleged patent infringement. With a stronger patent portfolio that the other companies might be required to rely on, Google could better defend Android.

In its Tuesday statement, InterDigital said it had hired financial advisers to help conduct a strategic review of the company, which could include a sale of the business. Over the past year, it has seen the value of intellectual property rise "substantially" as major mobile companies have begun to understand the value of such assets, it said in the statement.

It said it hasn't set a timetable for completing the review process and that it wouldn't comment further about it.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that InterDigital's decision to explore a sale was spurred by Google's interest in the company.

Google declined to comment for this story.

InterDigital has more than 8,000 patents and even more pending, it said. Its technology is used in mobile chips. The company claims to have contributed significantly to an early mobile digital cellular standard once used by AT&T and many others around the world. It has also contributed to more modern cellular technologies. Its licensing program had generated more than US$1 billion by 2006, according to the company's website.

Acquiring such an extensive patent portfolio could make up for Google's loss of the Nortel patents. Google had bid on that valuable patent portfolio, which also could have helped it stave off competitors, but lost to a consortium of companies that included Apple, Microsoft and Research In Motion. Those companies paid $4.5 billion for the more than 6,000 patents, significantly more than the $900 million that Google had offered.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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