Apple Boosts IP Portfolio with 200 Freescale Patents

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Apple Inc. has purchased some 200+ patents from Freescale Semiconductor, the chip company spun off from Apple’s former PowerPC partner Motorola. According to PatentlyO, Apple acquired the patents on April 11th of 2011, though the transaction wasn’t made public until May 18th.

Terms of the deal are unknown, but PatentlyO noted two facts that point to a cash transaction. The first is that Freescale has billions of dollars in debt that has come due, and the second is that Apple has more money than Bill Gates.

At least a smattering of the patents deal with various aspects of wireless communications, including a patent titled, “Mobile wireless communication device architectures and methods therefor,” another titled, “Techniques for reducing precoding overhead in a multiple-input multiple-output wireless communication system,” and the oh-so-exciting “Channel Sounding Techniques for a Wireless Communication System.”

The patent wonks at PatentlyO noted that the full range of patents was diverse in nature, and that almost all of them relate to hardware for computers and wireless devices. (Visit the site for the full list of patents).

Whether or not these or other patents in the portfolio will be or are being used in Apple’s iPhone business or perhaps in the company’s ARM processor design work that has so far resulted in the A4 and the A5 processors used in its iOS devices remains to be seen.

In addition to such direct practical reasons for acquiring the patents, Apple could consider the portfolio as ammunition in the many patent lawsuits Apple has launched and has had launched against it in recent years. Ironically (or not), Motorola itself is one of those companies, though the two have battled on issues related to user interface, not processor-related technologies.

Whatever the reason, one source commenting to The Mac Observer on the acquisition reminded us that there is a reason for the purchase. As much money as Apple has, the company is loathe to part with it, and has yet to make a frivolous purchase, at least not one that we know about.

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