Intel has been putting off auctioning off over 8,500 wireless patents in lieu of holding a period of exclusive talks with one company about potentially acquiring a substantial portion according to a report from IAM.
According to that note, the stockpile of assets received what is described as “very strong market interest”, but the exclusivity that the company had entered into with one party “precludes further engagement with other bidders at this time”. The email holds out the prospect that the auction process could be re-opened — presumably if the company fails to finalize a deal — but at this point it would be a surprise if the bidder were to walk away.
Intel’s director of company licensing and trademarks James Kovacs emailed interested parties to let them know of the news. The identity of the company holding talks with Intel was not confirmed, but the report speculates the company in question 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.
Apple has sought to create its own modems for the iPhone as a way siphon off its dependency on Qualcomm. But as its modem business is still years away from being able to fully support iPhone production, Apple is settling for exclusively dealing with Qualcomm, especially after Intel got out of the 5G modem business earlier this year.
An acquisition of several thousand patents and assets could help Apple speed up the process, or at least until its six-year deal with Qualcomm runs out.
What the report doesn’t mention is that the potential buyer could also be Qualcomm as a way to strengthen its stronghold on the modem industry. We likely won’t know the identity of this company until the purchase is made official. Until then, all we can do is speculate.