In the category of “What ifs,” this is a winner.
Back in 2002, Broadcom bought a grip of patents from a little-known company called Unova for $24 million. Broadcom ended up using some of them, like wireless technology patents 6,389,010 and 5,657,317, to sue rival Qualcomm and had success, winning damages and an injunction. On Sunday, Qualcomm agreed to pay Broadcom $891 million to settle those and other patent fights around the globe. So you see, those little patents helped Broadcom win the battle against the Big Q.
Here’s the thing: rumor has it that Unova (now known at Intermec) also offered to sell them to Qualcomm. Industry experts say that it would be natural for anyone selling wireless patents to offer them to both Qualcomm and Broadcom to drive the price up. “Whenever you get a really good wireless patent you call those two guys up,” said Ron Laurie, an IP consultant, noting that a settlement between the two might put a damper on future wireless patent sales.
Although Qualcomm GC Don Rosenberg said he didn’t know whether Qualcomm actually had a chance to buy the Intermec patents, he said he suspected that they were probably shopped to Qualcomm. Asked what would’ve happened if Qualcomm had bought them instead, he said: “If they hadn’t bought those patents…” before deciding that it would better if he didn’t answer the question.
— Zusha Elinson