Qualcomm moves to 'insulate' its IP assets by forming a new subsidiary to deal safely with the open source side of the business. By Ian Scales.
Anybody watching the mobile industry for the last year or so will have noticed the increasing volume of litigation as the big boys all jockey for position in the crucial smartphone market. As that market grows past phones and into tablets and what were called PCs, the underlying technology bits are becoming wildly more valuable. Now players are looking at projections which show their low-powered technology - originally developed for phones - powering (but not much) the whole industry, from smartphones through to computers and even servers. Qualcomm is well-placed in the middle of all this, as is ARM, whose technology Qualcomm licenses.
As this swap-over (new chips for old) takes place, things are most likely going to get nasty (just as they already have in the smartphone building business).
So it's interesting that Qualcomm, a company based around the concept of researching, developing and then licensing intellectual property in the wireless/mobile space, has just announced a move to restructure, in large part to better protect its IP assets and itself from suites designed to make life difficult
Qualcomm today announced that it was going to modify its corporate structure to enable it to "quickly deliver products to its customers... blah blah" while, more importantly (our italics), "further protecting and insulating its valuable patent portfolio from any claims resulting from actions and activities by portions of the company other than the Qualcomm Technology Licensing Division (QTL)."
Qualcomm claims that it's not "undergoing this restructuring in anticipation, or as part, of spinning out either the QTL or QCT business, nor is this change in response to any third party actions or claims." Not immediate ones anyway, but there are clearly threats out there and Qualcomm doesn't plan to be caught with its patents down.
"The new corporate structure will feature the parent company, Qualcomm Incorporated, which includes QTL and corporate functions, as well as most of Qualcomm's patent portfolio; and a new wholly owned subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI), which, along with its subsidiaries, will operate substantially all of Qualcomm's research and development activities, as well as product and services businesses, including its semiconductor business, QCT.
"The change in Qualcomm's corporate structure generally formalizes the way the company has been operating, and will continue to operate, its primary businesses. However, the company expects that QTI and its subsidiaries' product and services businesses will increase their work with open source software in the future and this restructuring will, among other things, help ensure that QTI and its subsidiaries' activities do not result in the licensing of any of Qualcomm Incorporated's patents, including its 3G and 4G patents.
"Under the new structure, QTI and its subsidiaries will own patents specifically developed for purposes of providing open source software contributions by QTI and its subsidiaries, whereas substantially all of the remainder of the company's patent portfolio will continue to be owned by Qualcomm Incorporated. QTI and its subsidiaries will have no rights to grant licenses or other rights to patents held by Qualcomm Incorporated. There will be no changes to the intellectual property that is currently owned by Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc., which works closely with the open source community to accelerate the advancement of the wireless industry as a whole."
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