updated 05:55 pm EDT, Fri September 9, 2011
InterDigital may be bought by top Android backers
(Update: clarification on Google role) InterDigital's attempt at a sell-off is getting close and attracting key Android phone makers, insiders claimed Friday. HTC and returning candidate Samsung are considering initial bids when they start in an auction now said to be starting in two weeks. Ericsson and Intel were also involved in the Bloomberg version of events.
Some of them might team together, much as Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and others formed the Rockstar bid group to deny Google patents from Nortel. They wouldn't need to provide detailed breakdowns of their bids.
InterDigital signaled that it was willing to consider a sale in the white-hot climate of smartphone patent wars but has avoided identifying potential candidates. The firm is best known for making its business off of suing others but could make billions cashing out for a company wanting either to attack others or to mount a defense.
An off-hand reference, however, may suggest a larger upheaval. Google is allegedly "backing away" from its $12.5 billion bid for Motorola, according to the sources. Why and how serious it might be weren't said.
If true, a withdrawal could represent one of Google's largest-ever public gaffes. Its decision to buy Motorola was already considered by many to be a knee-jerk reaction to losing out on Novell and Nortel patent bids. M-Cam analyst David Martin went so far as to call it "an immense mistake" where it not only was getting patents that would do little to help but that it now opened itself up to lawsuits from Freescale, which owns some of Motorola's better patents.
It also came even after an FTC investigation had begun and would have raised even more antitrust allegations than exist today.
Reversing course would avoid these problems, but it would also burn Motorola and any hardware partners. Motorola would no longer have the financial backing and direct integration of Google, and partners that had been pushed by Google into making public statements endorsing the Motorola deal would now have done so for no reason. Phone makers might also lose trust in Google knowing that it might change its mind.
Google, InterDigital, and others involved in the stories haven't commented on the authenticity of any of the reports.
Update: A clarification made clear that Google was backing out only of InterDigital because of the Motorola deal, not the Motorola deal itself. We apologize for any confusion.