Intel Reportedly in Exclusive Talks With Unnamed Buyer Over 8,500 Wireless Patents

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Just weeks after Intel reportedly put around 8,500 wireless patents up for auction, the chipmaker has now taken the portfolio off the market and entered into a period of exclusivity with an unnamed buyer for a substantial portion of the assets up for sale, according to IAM.


While the hopeful buyer has not been disclosed, the report speculates it could be Apple:
Intel gave no indication of who the interested bidder might be; whether, for example, it is an operating company acting on its own, a consortium or an investor play. However, given the reports of Apple's interest in the chipmaker's overall smartphone modem business, the iPhone giant must be seen as among the most likely bidders.
Intel is reportedly aiming to sell off 8,500 assets from its patent portfolio, including 6,000 patents related to 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular standards and an additional 1,700 patents on wireless implementation technologies.

The portfolio would obviously be tremendously valuable to Apple as rumors suggest the iPhone maker is developing its own cellular modems that could be ready by 2022 or 2023, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple is also widely expected to release its first 5G-enabled iPhone next year.

In April, Intel announced that it is exiting the 5G smartphone business, not long after Apple and Qualcomm reached a settlement and a multi-year supply agreement that will see Qualcomm providing 5G modems for future iPhones.

Apple is reportedly interested in purchasing parts of Intel's smartphone modem business following its exit, possibly including its German division. Together with the 8,500 patents, this would give Apple a significant amount of 5G-related intellectual property to advance its wireless technologies.

Article Link: Intel Reportedly in Exclusive Talks With Unnamed Buyer Over 8,500 Wireless Patents
 

ksec

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Dec 23, 2015
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1. If Apple were purchasing it, it means other Mobile phone vendor could need to license those patents from Apple for their Phones. Pretty much like Microsoft made ~$5 per Google Android phone.

2. But I don't understand why Intel are not doing it themselves, and would rather sell it. And I don't see Intel leaving the 3GPP development. ( The organisation for developing 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G standards )
 
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JetTester

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Feb 12, 2014
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Wow, that's a lot of patents. They must have a building full of engineers that do nothing but patent whatever idea comes to mind.
 
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DotCom2

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Feb 22, 2009
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I think such a purchase would be blocked by the FTC as it would give Qualcomm too much power.
That's what I was thinking as well. No way the FTC would allow this to go through given what you have stated and their recent legal battles.
 
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izyreal

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Sep 26, 2012
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Ooooo... This is going to make Qualcomm really happy! If Apple does buy these, then they lose a lot of negotiating power up until the point when they are ready to launch their own modem hardware.
 

69Mustang

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Jan 7, 2014
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In between a rock and a hard place
1. If Apple were purchasing it, it means other Mobile phone vendor could need to license those patents from Apple for their Phones. Pretty much like Microsoft made ~$5 per Google Android phone.
The big question is how many of the 8500 are actually valuable; either for licensing or defensive purposes.

2. But I don't understand why Intel are not doing it themselves, and would rather sell it. And I don't see Intel leaving the 3GPP development. ( The organisation for developing 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G standards )
I'd guess they thought they couldn't compete tech-for-tech with Qualcomm in mobile. They only had 1 big customer buying their mobile chips and that customer is known to be developing it's own. You have Qualcomm, Huawei, and other med/small Chinese manufacturers specializing in 5G mobile. Where was Intel going to fit in there? I think they realized that R&D is expensive and the ROI on the efforts would have likely been inconsequential. That would be money better spent late delivering their bread and butter chips.:p:D
 
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NickName99

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Nov 8, 2018
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Hopefully these sell to a buyer who plans on making a product, not just being a patent troll. If Apple is planning on developing their own 5G modems, it would be wise to buy this portfolio to avoid someone else trolling them later on with it.
 

rp2011

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A lot of the Nortel patents that Rockstar bought were sold to RPX. So RPX could possibly be one of the bidders.
 

realtuner

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Mar 8, 2019
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Not really. There are several threads on here that consistently report poorer reception on Intel modems. Though that's not to say Apple wouldn't benefit tremendously from the patents.
Here’s my result on an iPhone XS Max with the supposedly “crappy” Intel modem. Done on a moving SkyTrain while going to work the other day.

So I don’t buy the complaints it’s a bad modem or somehow slow. On paper the Qualcomm modems are better, but that doesn’t mean Intel modems are garbage. Nobody would ever notice the difference in real-world usage and any issues they’re having are more likely an issue with the network, congestion, the service they’re connecting to or their physical location and not because of modem differences.


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an-other

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Aug 12, 2011
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Some random thoughts:
  • Having patents makes it less likely to have trolls claim you are using their functionality. Not a guarantee
  • Patents versus enforceable patents are two different things. Patent Litigation is extremely costly, and there are companies that are genius at playing this game. That is, knowingly using patented technology and fighting it in court and in other ways. A google search for a Vanity Fair article on a large tech conglomerate will provide more information on a specific player. (That noted, all tech has been found to infringe on other's intellectual property at one time or another.)
  • I can't imagine Apple wants to get in the patent royalty business. Just my view as a long-time customer observer of the company. I could be well wrong.
  • I agree with dannyyankou: Apple has done a great job with their chips. Moving into modems doesn't guarantee the same type of success, however I'm hopeful it would.
  • The exclusive bidder could be many companies including Samsung. Not trying to make an Apple/Samsung death bout intimation here. Samsung has top tier chip production ability. It could make sense for them to go this route if they're committed to the R&D long term.
 

Boltfromthesouth

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Jul 10, 2019
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Apple's business model isn't about licensing the way QCOM's is. Apple is in the "control" business. Not in the evil genius way, but in the vertically integrated sense. Apple has the resources to build a very fine-tuned modem for their specific products. For their specific use cases, form factors, etc. that will differentiate themselves from the competition (and likely increase the profit margins)

Plus these patents likely include the ones from Infineon, who has been in the modem business for a long time too. They will likely be ones that can help lawyers fight when QCOM comes and says they have patents from "x years ago".

Apple has the labs that rival those of QCOM (remember the PR game they did for "antenna-gate"...think they haven't gotten any better?), they have the engineers, and if they don't, they have the cash to make it happen.

Apple built its own WiFi and BT chips, they are building their own modems, and with this patent portfolio (and their own modem patents), they will control their own destiny. Plus, if all else fails, they have all the cash they need to fight anyone who comes knocking.

I would be shocked if Apple isn't spending some money on this. Also to those saying Intel is getting out of the 5G business, that's because unless your customers are Apple or Samsung, who else are you selling chips to? Especially in the quantities that make the business unit profitable.
 
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ksec

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Dec 23, 2015
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On paper the Qualcomm modems are better, but that doesn’t mean Intel modems are garbage. Nobody would ever notice the difference in real-world usage and any issues they’re having are more likely an issue with the network, congestion,
That is not true, people having an iPhone with Qualcomm and Intel Modem side by side see the differences. In most cases they are fine, the problem starts with edge cases. And there are lots of edge cases in Mobile Network, which is what makes it so difficult to design a modem. It is not that making one is hard, it is making one that works in 95%+ of all these edge cases very hard. Basically it requires lot of testing, something Qualcomm pours lots of resources into.

It is not "bad" in absolute terms, but it is definitely worse than Qualcomm.
 
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jayducharme

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Jun 22, 2006
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The thick of it
You could probably narrow down the list of potential buyers if you think about which companies in the tech sector have billions of dollars in cash lying around.