One of the long-running stories in the Palm and webOS saga was the value of Palm’s significant patent portfolio, for example speculation that Apple never sued Palm for many seemingly similar patent violations because of the retaliatory benefit of Palm’s patents. After all, Palm was in the PDA and smartphone game long before Apple, and indeed most other companies.
The strange thing is, nobody ever used those patents against Apple. Palm didn’t, and HP didn’t after they purchased Palm. And so, either neither company saw any value in pursuing litigation against Apple (or anyone else), the patents aren’t as valuable as many think, or both companies just missed an opportunity to gain some value from the intellectual property amassed by Palm over the years.
Now, Qualcomm has purchased the Palm patent portfolio from HP, along with some other HP patents (e.g., those acquired from IPAQ and Bitfone). The company stated:
The acquisition further enhances the strength and diversity of Qualcomm Incorporated’s industry-leading mobile patent portfolio and will enable the company to offer even more value to current and future licensees.
The reference to “current and future licensees” implies that Qualcomm will actually use the patents for some financial gain. But I still would have liked to see someone pit the Palm patent portfolio against Apple’s, just to see how things would turn out.
In the meantime, this seems like one of the final nails in Palm’s coffin. webOS is being used in LG TVs, and now the patents are in the hands of a completely unrelated third-party. I’ll always be a little sad when I think about Palm, and what could have been.