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Main article: Patent

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Huawei files patent infringement lawsuits against Verizon Communications

11:36 | 6 February

Huawei has filed two patent infringement lawsuits against Verizon Communications in U.S. District Court.

The Chinese telecommunications equipment giant wants Verizon to compensate it for the use of technology it says are covered by 12 Huawei patents, including ones related to networking, security and video communications. Before the lawsuits were filed, Huawei claims it negotiated with Verizon in a series of meetings from February 2019 to January 21, but was unable to reach a license agreement.

(Disclosure: TechCrunch is owned by Verizon Media, a division of Verizon Communications).

Huawei technology is used by telecommunication companies around the world. In a press release about the lawsuits, it says it puts about 10% to 15% of its revenue into research and development each year, and has spent about $70 billion on R&D over the last decade, including about $15 billion in 2018 alone.

This resulted in Huawei receiving more than 80,000 patents around the world, including 10,000 in the U.S.

In its filings, Huawei claims Verizon has “profited greatly” from infringing on its patents, noting that Verizon Communication’s total revenue for its wireline division in 2018 was $29.8 billion.

Huawei maintains a close relationship with many other tech companies, including some competitors, through licenses. It says that it has received more than $1.4 billion in patent license fees since 2015 and in addition to providing access to its own technology, has also paid over $6 billion for licensing patents from other companies, with more than 100 license agreements signed with vendors in the U.S., Europe, Japan and South Korea.

In its press release, Huawei’s chief legal officer Song Liuping said “Verizon’s products and services have benefitted from patented technology that Huawei developed over many years of research and development.”

“For years now we have successfully negotiated patent license agreements with many companies. Unfortunately, when no agreement can be reached, we have no choice but to see a legal remedy,” Song added. “This is a common practice in the industry. Huawei is simply asking that Verizon respect Huawei’s investment in research and development by either paying for the use of our patents, or refraining from using them in its products and services.”

TechCrunch has contacted Verizon Communications for comment.

The patent infringement lawsuit is taking place against the backdrop of Huawei’s legal entanglements with the U.S. government, which claims it is a national security threat, a charge Huawei denies.

Huawei has been on a U.S. trade blacklist since the last May and is suing the government over what it says is an unconstitutional ban on the use of its products by federal agencies and contractors. Huawei’s technology is used by many telecom companies around the world, however, and its close ties with U.S. supply chains were underscored last month when the Defense and Treasury Departments reportedly put pressure on the Commerce Department over the ban.

 


0

US patents hit record 333,530 granted in 2019; IBM, Samsung (not the FAANGs) lead the pack

14:57 | 14 January

We may have moved on from a nearly-daily cycle of news involving tech giants sparring in courts over intellectual property infringement, but patents continue to be a major cornerstone of how companies and people measure their progress and create moats around the work that they have done in hopes of building that into profitable enterprises in the future. IFI Claims, a company that tracks patent activity in the US, released its annual tally of IP work today underscoring that theme: it noted that 2019 saw a new high-watermark of 333,530 patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The figures are notable for a few reasons. One is that this is the most patents ever granted in a single year; and the second that this represents a 15% jump on a year before. The high overall number speaks to the enduring interest in safeguarding IP, while the 15% jump has to do with the fact that patent numbers actually dipped last year (down 3.5%) while the number that were filed and still in application form (not granted) was bigger than ever. If we can draw something from that, it might be that filers and the USPTO were both taking a little more time to file and process, not a reduction in the use of patents altogether.

But patents do not tell the whole story in another very important regard.

Namely, the world’s most valuable, and most high profile tech companies are not always the ones that rank the highest in patents filed.

Consider the so-called FAANG group, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google: Facebook is at number-36 (one of the fastest movers but still not top 10) with 989 patents; Apple is at number-seven with 2,490 patents; Amazon is at number-nine with 2,427 patents; Netflix doesn’t make the top 50 at all; and the Android, search and advertising behemoth Google is merely at slot 15 with 2,102 patents (and no special mention for growth).

Indeed, the fact that one of the oldest tech companies, IBM, is also the biggest patent filer almost seems ironic in that regard.

As with previous years — the last 27, to be exact — IBM has continued to hold on to the top spot for patents granted, with 9,262 in total for the year. Samsung Electronics, at 6,469, is a distant second.

These numbers, again, don’t tell the whole story: IFI Claims notes that Samsung ranks number-one when you consider all active patent “families”, which might get filed across a number of divisions (for example a Samsung Electronics subsidiary filing separately) and count the overall number of patents to date (versus those filed this year). In this regard, Samsung stands at 76,638, with IBM the distant number-two at 37,304 patent families.

Part of this can be explained when you consider their businesses: Samsung makes a huge range of consumer and enterprise products. IBM, on the other hand, essentially moved out of the consumer electronics market years ago and these days mostly focuses on enterprise and B2B and far less hardware. That means a much smaller priority placed on that kind of R&D, and subsequent range of families.

Two other areas that are worth tracking are biggest movers and technology trends.

In the first of these, it’s very interesting to see a car company rising to the top. Kia jumped 58 places and is now at number-41 (921 patents) — notable when you think about how cars are the next “hardware” and that we are entering a pretty exciting phase of connected vehicles, self-driving and alternative energy to propel them.

Others rounding out fastest-growing were Hewlett Packard Enterprise, up 28 places to number-48 (794 patents); Facebook, up 22 places to number-36 (989 patents); Micron Technology, up nine places to number-25 (1,268), Huawei, up six places to number-10 (2,418), BOE Technology, up four places to number-13 (2,177), and Microsoft, up three places to number-4 (3,081 patents).

In terms of technology trends, IFI looks over a period of five years, where there is now a strong current of medical and biotechnology innovation running through the list right now, with hybrid plant creation topping the list of trending technology, followed by CRISPR gene-editing technology, and then medicinal preparations (led by cancer therapies). “Tech” in the computer processor sense only starts at number-four with dashboards and other car-related tech; with quantum computing, 3-D printing and flying vehicle tech all also featuring.

Indeed, if you have wondered if we are in a fallow period of innovation in mobile, internet and straight computer technology… look no further than this list to prove out that thought.

Unsurprisingly, US companies account for 49% of U.S. patents granted in 2019 up from 46 percent a year before. Japan accounts for 16% to be the second-largest, with South Korea at 7% (Samsung carrying a big part of that, I’m guessing), and China passing Germany to be at number-four with 5%.

  1. International Business Machines Corp 9262
  2. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 6469
  3. Canon Inc 3548
  4. Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC 3081
  5. Intel Corp 3020
  6. LG Electronics Inc 2805
  7. Apple Inc 2490
  8. Ford Global Technologies LLC 2468
  9. Amazon Technologies Inc 2427
  10. Huawei Technologies Co Ltd 2418
  11. Qualcomm Inc 2348
  12. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co TSMC Ltd 2331
  13. BOE Technology Group Co Ltd 2177
  14. Sony Corp 2142
  15. Google LLC 2102
  16. Toyota Motor Corp 2034
  17. Samsung Display Co Ltd 1946
  18. General Electric Co 1818
  19. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson AB 1607
  20. Hyundai Motor Co 1504
  21. Panasonic Intellectual Property Management Co Ltd 1387
  22. Boeing Co 1383
  23. Seiko Epson Corp 1345
  24. GM Global Technology Operations LLC 1285
  25. Micron Technology Inc 1268
  26. United Technologies Corp 1252
  27. Mitsubishi Electric Corp 1244
  28. Toshiba Corp 1170
  29. AT&T Intellectual Property I LP 1158
  30. Robert Bosch GmbH 1107
  31. Honda Motor Co Ltd 1080
  32. Denso Corp 1052
  33. Cisco Technology Inc 1050
  34. Halliburton Energy Services Inc 1020
  35. Fujitsu Ltd 1008
  36. Facebook Inc 989
  37. Ricoh Co Ltd 980
  38. Koninklijke Philips NV 973
  39. EMC IP Holding Co LLC 926
  40. NEC Corp 923
  41. Kia Motors Corp 921
  42. Texas Instruments Inc 894
  43. LG Display Co Ltd 865
  44. Oracle International Corp 847
  45. Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd 842
  46. Sharp Corp 819
  47. SK Hynix Inc 798
  48. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development LP 794
  49. Fujifilm Corp 791
  50. LG Chem Ltd 791

 


0

IP strategy: How should startups decide whether to file patents

17:03 | 3 July

Bryant Lee, Ed Steakley & Saleh Kaihani Contributor
Bryant Lee is the co-founder and managing partner of Cognition IP, a YC-backed IP law firm for startups. Ed Steakley was the Head of IP at Airware and Senior Patent Counsel at Apple. Saleh Kaihani is a partner at Cognition IP.

Deciding what to patent can be a confusing process but by creating a formal process it is something that every startup can manage.

Intellectual property (IP) is one of the most valuable assets of a startup and patents are often chief among IP in terms of value. Patents allow the startup to prevent competitors from using their technology, which is a powerful feature that can grant unique advantages in the marketplace.

From a business perspective, patents can help with driving investment and acquisitions, provide protection during partnerships and business deals, and help defend itself against patent lawsuits by others.

However, startups also often have a hard time determining when and what to patent. Innovative startups are inventing new things on a regular basis, and there is a danger of slipping into a haphazard approach of patenting whatever happens to be available rather than systematically analyzing the business needs of the company and protecting the IP that moves the needle the most.

Moreover, startups must balance the need to protect IP with other areas of the business: Patents are complex documents that require an investment of time and resources to obtain. They often require specialized legal counsel to write and a lengthy examination process at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).

This article is a how-to guide for startups to make the decision on when and what to patent with a mature approach to IP strategy.

Table of Contents

Creating a regular IP harvesting process

Index 02

In order to make a decision about what to patent, a startup must first know what IP it has. For very small teams, it may be possible for everyone to have a shared idea of the IP. However, once teams grow beyond a few people, it is no longer possible to have complete visibility into what everyone on the team is doing and potentially inventing. Therefore, a regular IP harvesting process must be put in place to ensure proper reporting of IP to the executive level.

Most startups are best served with a simple IP harvesting process involving just three steps: (1) disclosure (2) invention review and (3) patent filing. In the disclosure stage, employees who are in IP creation roles must be trained to disclose ideas that are potentially protectable IP.

 


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New USPTO Guidance May Clear Path for More Technology Patents

23:04 | 15 April

James J. DeCarlo Contributor
James J. DeCarlo is a shareholder in Greenberg Traurig’s Intellectual Property Practice Group. A registered patent attorney, he is actively involved in virtually all aspects of intellectual property counseling. He has spent nearly 30 years litigating, licensing and procuring patents in the software, hardware, internet and networking spaces, among many others. Mr. DeCarlo can be reached at decarloj@gtlaw.com.
Chinh H. Pham Contributor
Chinh H. Pham leads Greenberg Traurig’s Emerging Technology Practice, and is co-chair of the Boston Office Intellectual Property Practice Group. He is a registered patent attorney with particular experience in the strategic creation, implementation, and protection of intellectual property rights for high technology clients. Mr. Pham can be reached at phamc@gtlaw.com.

On January 4, 2019, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released new Patent Examiner Guidance (“the Guidance”) for subject matter eligibility. The updated guidance could benefit any technology patent applicant who has a computer-related invention – from smartphones to artificial intelligence – and who has previously had difficulty acquiring patents under the USPTO’s procedures for determining patent subject matter eligibility.

This Guidance represents the current methodology for analysis of patent claims under 35 U.S.C. § 101 in view of Mayo v. Prometheus, Alice v. CLS Bank Intl., and subsequent cases, and is intended to provide a more concrete framework for analyzing whether patent claims, as a whole, are merely “directed to” an abstract idea.  The Guidance will supersede certain analysis methods articulated in previous guidance, particularly the Examiner’s “Quick Reference” that previously sought to categorize abstract ideas.

The Alice/Mayo Test

The Guidance acknowledges that applying the Alice/Mayo test to analyze claims under § 101 has “caused uncertainty in this area of the law” and has resulted in examination practices that prevent stakeholders from “reliably and predictably determining what subject matter is patent-eligible.” As such, the Guidance attempts to remedy this uncertainty by revising the USPTO’s analysis under the first step (Step 2A) of the Alice/Mayo test:

 


0

Startup Law A to Z: Regulatory Compliance

22:17 | 4 April

Startups are but one species in a complex regulatory and public policy ecosystem. This ecosystem is larger and more powerfully dynamic than many founders appreciate, with distinct yet overlapping laws at the federal, state and local/city levels, all set against a vast array of public and private interests. Where startup founders see opportunity for disruption in regulated markets, lawyers counsel prudence: regulations exist to promote certain strongly-held public policy objectives which (unlike your startup’s business model) carry the force of law.

Snapshot of the regulatory and public policy ecosystem. Image via Law Office of Daniel McKenzie

Although the canonical “ask forgiveness and not permission” approach taken by Airbnb and Uber circa 2009 might lead founders to conclude it is strategically acceptable to “move fast and break things” (including the law), don’t lose sight of the resulting lawsuits and enforcement actions. If you look closely at Airbnb and Uber today, each have devoted immense resources to building regulatory and policy teams, lobbying, public relations, defending lawsuits, while increasingly looking to work within the law rather than outside it – not to mention, in the case of Uber, a change in leadership as well.

Indeed, more recently, examples of founders and startups running into serious regulatory issues are commonplace: whether in healthcare, where CEO/Co-founder Conrad Parker was forced to resign from Zenefits and later fined approximately $500K; in the securities registration arena, where cryptocurrency startups Airfox and Paragon have each been fined $250K and further could be required to return to investors the millions raised through their respective ICOs; in the social media and privacy realm, where TikTok was recently fined $5.7 million for violating COPPA, or in the antitrust context, where tech giant Google is facing billions in fines from the EU.

Suffice it to say, regulation is not a low-stakes table game. In 2017 alone, according to Duff and Phelps, US financial regulators levied $24.4 billion in penalties against companies and another $621.3 million against individuals. Particularly in today’s highly competitive business landscape, even if your startup can financially absorb the fines for non-compliance, the additional stress and distraction for your team may still inflict serious injury, if not an outright death-blow.

The best way to avoid regulatory setbacks is to first understand relevant regulations and work to develop compliant policies and business practices from the beginning. This article represents a step in that direction, the fifth and final installment in Extra Crunch’s exclusive “Startup Law A to Z” series, following previous articles on corporate matters, intellectual property (IP), customer contracts and employment law.

Given the breadth of activities subject to regulation, however, and the many corresponding regulations across federal, state, and municipal levels, no analysis of any particular regulatory framework would be sufficiently complete here. Instead, the purpose of this article is to provide founders a 30,000-foot view across several dozen applicable laws in key regulatory areas, providing a “lay of the land” such that with some additional navigation and guidance, an optimal course may be charted.

The regulatory areas highlighted here include: (a) Taxes; (b) Securities; (c) Employment; (d) Privacy; (e) Antitrust; (f) Advertising, Commerce and Telecommunications; (g) Intellectual Property; (h) Financial Services and Insurance; and finally (i) Transportation, Health and Safety.

 


0

Microsoft gives 500 patents to startups

13:00 | 28 March

Microsoft today announced a major expansion of its Azure IP Advantage program, which provides its Azure users with protection against patent trolls. This program now also provides customers who are building IoT solutions that connect to Azure with access to 10,000 patents to defend themselves against intellectual property lawsuits.

What’s maybe most interesting here, though, is that Microsoft is also donating 500 patents to startups in the LOT Network. This organization, which counts companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, SAP, Epic Games, Ford, GM, Lyft and Uber among its well over 150 members, is designed to protect companies against patent trolls by giving them access to a wide library of patents from its member companies and other sources.

“The LOT Network is really committed to helping address the proliferation of intellectual property losses, especially ones that are brought by non-practicing entities, or so-called trolls,” Microsoft  CVP and Deputy General Counsel Erich Andersen told me. 

This new program goes well beyond basic protection from patent trolls, though. Qualified startups who join the LOT Network can acquire Microsoft patents as part of their free membership and as Andresen stressed, the startups will own them outright. The LOT network will be able to provide its startup members with up to three patents from this collection.

There’s one additional requirement here, though: to qualify for getting the patents, these startups also have to meet a $1,000 per month Azure spend. As Andersen told me, though, they don’t have to make any kind of forward pledge. The company will simply look at a startup’s last three monthly Azure bills.

“We want to help the LOT Network grow its network of startups,” Andersen said. “To provide an incentive, we are going to provide these patents to them.” He noted that startups are obviously interested in getting access to patents as a foundation of their companies, but also to raise capital and to defend themselves against trolls.

The patents we’re talking about here cover a wide range of technologies as well as geographies. Andersen noted that we’re talking about U.S. patents as well as European and Chinese patents, for example.

“The idea is that these startups come from a diverse set of industry sectors,” he said. “The hope we have is that when they approach LOT, they’ll find patents among those 500 that are going to be interesting to basically almost any company that might want a foundational set of patents for their business.”

As for the extended Azure IP Advantage program, it’s worth noting that every Azure customer who spends more than $1,000 per month over the past three months and hasn’t filed a patent infringement lawsuit against another Azure customers in the last two years can automatically pick one of the patents in the program’s portfolio to protect itself against frivolous patent lawsuits from trolls (and that’s a different library of patents from the one Microsoft is donating to the LOT Network as part of the startup program).

As Andresen noted, the team looked at how it could enhance the IP program by focusing on a number of specific areas. Microsoft is obviously investing a lot into IoT, so extending the program to this area makes sense. “What we’re basically saying is that if the customer is using IoT technology — regardless of whether it’s Microsoft technology or not — and it’s connected to Azure, then we’re going to provide this patent pick right to help customers defend themselves against patent suits,” Andersen said.

In addition, for those who do choose to use Microsoft IoT technology across the board, Microsoft will provide indemnification, too.

Patent trolls have lately started acquiring IoT patents, so chances are they are getting ready to making use of them and that we’ll see quite a bit of patent litigation in this space in the future. “The early signs we’re seeing indicate that this is something that customers are going to care about in the future,” said Andersen.

 


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It’s a draw in latest Qualcomm v Apple patent scores

12:54 | 27 March

It’s Qualcomm 1, Apple 1 in the latest instalment of the pair’s bitter patent bust-up — the litigious IP infringement claim saga that also combines a billion dollar royalties suit filed by Cupertino alleging the mobile chipmaker’s licensing terms are unfair.

Apple filed against Qualcomm on the latter front two years ago and the trial is due to kick off next month. But a U.S. federal court judge issued a bracing sharpener earlier this month, in the form of a preliminary ruling — finding Qualcomm owes Apple nearly $1BN in patent royalty rebate payments. So that courtroom looks like one to watch for sure.

Yesterday’s incremental, two-fold development in the overarching saga relates to patent charges filed by Qualcomm against Apple back in 2017, via complaints to the International Trade Commission (ITC) in which it sought to block U.S. imports of iPhones.

In an initial determination on one of these patent complaints published yesterday, an ITC administrative law judge found Apple violated one of Qualcomm’s patents — and recommended an import ban.

Though Apple could (and likely will) request a review of that non-binding decision.

Related: A different ITC judge found last year that Apple had violated another Qualcomm patent but did not order a ban on imports — on “public interest” grounds.

ITC staff also previously found no infringement of the very same patent, which likely bolsters the case for a review. (The patent in question, U.S. Patent No. 8,063,674, relates to “multiple supply-voltage power-up/down detectors”.)

Then, later yesterday, the ITC issued a final determination on a second Qualcomm v Apple patent complaint — finding no patent violations on the three claims that remained at issue (namely: U.S. Patent No. 9,535,490; U.S. Patent No. 8,698,558; and U.S. Patent No. 8,633,936), terminating its investigation.

Though Qualcomm has said it intends to appeal.

The mixed bag of developments sit in the relatively ‘minor battle’ category of this slow-motion high-tech global legal war (though the ITC’s final decision looks more significant), along with the outcome of a jury trial in San Diego earlier this month, which found in Qualcomm’s favor over some of the same patents the ITC cleared Apple of infringing.

Reuters reports the chipmaker has cited the contradictory outcome of the earlier jury trial as grounds to push for a “reconsideration” of the ITC’s decision.

“The Commission’s decision is inconsistent with the recent unanimous jury verdict finding infringement of the same patent after Apple abandoned its invalidity defense at the end of trial,” Qualcomm said in a statement. “We will seek reconsideration by the Commission in view of the jury verdict.”

Albeit, given the extreme complexities of chipset component patent suits it’s not really surprising a jury might reach a different outcome to an ITC judge.

In the other corner, Apple issued its now customary punchy response statement to the latest developments, swinging in with: “Qualcomm is using these cases to distract from having to answer for the real issues, their monopolistic business practices.”

Safe to say, the litigious saga continues.

Other notable (but still only partial) wins for Qualcomm include a court decision in China last year ordering a ban on iPhone sales in the market — which Apple filed an appeal to overturn. So no China iPhone ban yet.

And an injunction ordered by a court in Germany which forced Apple to briefly pull certain iPhone models from sale in its own stores in January. By February the models were back on its shelves — albeit now with Qualcomm not Intel chips inside.

But it’s not all been going Qualcomm’s way in Germany. Also in January, another court in the country dismissed a separate patent claim as groundless.

 


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U.S. federal court jury finds Apple infringed three Qualcomm patents

14:24 | 16 March

Mobile chipmaker Qualcomm has chalked up another small legal victory against Apple in another patent litigation suit.

A jury in a U.S. federal court in San Diego found Friday that Apple owes Qualcomm about $31M for infringing three patents, per Reuters.

Qualcomm has filed a number of patent suits against the iPhone maker in the U.S., Europe and Asia in recent years. The suits are skirmishes in a bigger battle between the pair over licensing terms that Apple alleges are unfair and illegal.

As we reported earlier the San Diego patent suit relates to the power consumption and speed of boot-up times for iPhones sold between mid-2017 and late-2018.

Qualcomm had asked to be awarded up to $1.41 in unpaid patent royalties damages per infringing iPhone sold during the period.

Reuters suggests the award could have wider significance if it ends up factoring into the looming billion dollar royalties suit between Apple and Qualcomm. By putting a dollar value on some of Qualcomm’s IP, the San Diego trial potentially bolsters the chipmaker’s contention that its licensing practices are fair.

We’ve reached out to Apple and Qualcomm for comment on the San Diego trial outcome.

At the time of writing it’s not clear whether Apple intends to appeal. Reuters reports the iPhone maker declined to comment on that point, after expressing general disappointment with the outcome.

In a statement provided to the news agency it said: “Qualcomm’s ongoing campaign of patent infringement claims is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the larger issues they face with investigations into their business practices in U.S. federal court, and around the world.”

Apple filed its billion dollar royalties suit against Qualcomm two years ago.

It has reason to be bullish going into the trial now given a preliminary ruling Thursday — in which a U.S. federal court judge found Qualcomm owes Apple nearly $1BN in patent royalty rebate payments (via CNBC). The trial itself kicks off next month.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also filed antitrust charges against Qualcomm in 2017 — accusing the chipmaker of operating a monopoly and forcing exclusivity from Apple while charging “excessive” licensing fees for standards-essential patents.

That trial wrapped up in January and is pending a verdict from Judge Lucy Koh.

At the same time, Qualcomm has also been pursuing several international patent suits against Apple — also with some success.

In December Apple filed an appeal in China to overturn a preliminary ruling that could have blocked iPhone sales in the market.

While in Germany it did pull older iPhone models from sale in its own stores in January. But by February it was selling the two models again — albeit with Qualcomm chips, rather than Intel, inside.

 


0

Google filed a folding phone patent application, too

16:58 | 15 March

Does a patent application mean a company is particularly serious about a technology? No.

Is every company that makes a phones at least toying around with a folding model? Yes, probably.

It’s tough to know from a series a crude drawings and technical details filed with the USPTO how seriously an individual company is taking these plans. Honestly, most companies are understandably most likely taking a wait and see approach to the tech.

A new patent application spotted by Patently Mobile likely falls into the the latter camp. Google, after all, outsources a lot of its Pixel and other hardware to other device manufacturers — and, notably, doesn’t make its own displays. Even so, the filing shows off a device that folds a bit like a wallet.

“FOLDABLE DISPLAY NEUTRAL AXIS MANAGEMENT WITH THIN, HIGH MODULUS LAYERS” is pretty simple, on the face of it, especially when compared to already announced and soon to be launched offerings from Samsung and Huawei (not to mention the Xiaomi concept that got everyone all excited). It does Google in the same boat as Apple and Motorola, however, as companies that, have at the very least, flirted with the idea of a foldable.

Google, notably, has been on board with the category, at least from a software perspective. The company made a joint announcement with Samsung last year that it would support devices like the Galaxy Fold via Android. So someone, somewhere deep in the bowels of Mountain View has likely been toying with concepts.

As far as consumers are concerned, of course, foldables are still mostly a curiosity, with prices however around $2,000 — double the cost of other flagships. Relatively low barriers of entry have long been among the appeals of the Pixel line, so it’s tough to imagine Google rushing into a $2K foldable this year.

 


0

TiVo prepares to split its business into two as it pursues sale

18:25 | 1 March

DVR maker TiVo is preparing to split its company into two businesses: one, focused on its products like its Bolt family of DVRs, and the other on its licensing and intellectual property businesses. The move will help to address some of the complexities with those businesses, TiVo Interim CEO Raghu Rau, explained, which may make it more attractive to buyers.

By splitting the company into two, TiVo may be able to “facilitate strategic transactions,” with interested parties, Rau said, on the company’s Q4 earnings call this week with investors.

The CEO also noted that TiVo was in active discussions with parties who were interested in each its product and its IP businesses, but the overall strategic review process – which began a year ago – was taking longer than TiVo had anticipated.

“So we do agree that this process has taken longer than we had hoped particularly because of the complexity and uniqueness of our two businesses,” Rau told investors. “We’re hoping that we’ll give you another update the next quarter based on the ongoing discussions that we are having. But beyond that, I’m not willing to put a time limit on when this will happen because the interest of the Board and the management is to ensure that we get the best outcome for the shareholders and that’s what this whole review process has been focused on,” he said.

The issue seems to be that potential acquirers may want either the licensing business or the products business, but not both.

According to a report from LightReading, that’s definitely the case with potential buyers, sources told them. In addition, TiVo was described as being reluctant to move forward on anything significant until it knew more about the outcomes of its legal battles with Comcast over licensing and patents.

Rau noted that TiVo hadn’t actually announced that TiVo is separating, only that it’s now working on the various logistics issues that have to be addressed in order to separate the business, like the preparation of historical financials, audits and understanding of tax implications.

The company also said it ruled out a “transformative acquisition” a couple of quarters into its ongoing strategic review process, which began in February 2018.

TiVo itself was acquired by Rovi Corp. for $1.1 billion in 2016, and the combined entity kept the name TiVo. The deal enhanced TiVo’s patent portfolio, and today 9 of the top 10 pay TV service providers in the U.S. license its portfolio of IP, except for Comcast, whose license lapsed (which is why it’s in the courts.)

Given the relative recency of that merger, TiVo’s decision to now split the business again strongly hints that it’s had trouble finding a deal for the company as it stands today.

TiVo remains a household name, thanks to its line of TiVo branded DVRs which cater to pay TV subscribers and cord cutters alike. But the company has made some missteps along the way, as it tried to keep up with the increasingly competitive market. For instance, in an effort to differentiate itself, its newer Bolt DVR adopted an odd, angled shape that some found aesthetically displeasing. That matters, of course, because these DVRs have to be on display in your living room. (Unlike, says, Amazon’s new Fire TV Recast which can be hidden away in a back room of the house.)

In addition, TiVo’s model which relies on monthly subscriptions (or a larger “lifetime” fee) are harder for consumers to stomach at a time when there’s so much choice among media devices.

Combined with the larger shift away from pay TV and consumer adoption of players like Roku and Amazon Fire TV – even among pay TV subscribers – TiVo’s business is not what it once was.

The company in its earnings reported this Tuesday brought in a loss of $2.33 per share to end fiscal year 2018. In the year-ago quarter, TiVo had posted a profit of 28 cents. Its revenue for the period was $168.46 million, 21 percent down from Q4 2017, and under analysts’ estimates of $173.85 million.

 


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