Bloomberg reports: Google Hands HTC Patents to Use Against Apple

Apple reported blowout numbers and a record quarter yesterday. Not one, that's right,HTC Corp., Asia’s second-biggest smartphone maker, is using nine patents bought from Google Inc. (GOOG) last week to pursue new infringement claims against Apple Inc.

Google had taken ownership of the patents less than a year ago, with four of the patents originating from Motorola Inc., three from Openwave Systems Inc. and two from Palm Inc., according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records. 

HTC now has more ammunition in its fight to fend off multiple patent-infringement claims lodged by Apple that contend phones running Google’s Android operating system copy the iPhone. Google’s involvement in aiding HTC represents a new front in an industrywide dispute over smartphone technology that has also ensnared Android customers Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

“That’s a bit of a game-changer,” said Will Stofega, a technology analyst at Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC. “Google was interested in protecting its licensees with Android. It shows they need to support their customers in order to make sure the customers stick with them.”

HTC sued Apple yesterday in court and filed a complaint at the U.S. International Trade Commission, alleging infringement of the patents obtained from Google.

Google, which hasn’t been sued directly by Apple, has been criticized for sitting on the sidelines while its Android partners faced lawsuits. Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC, which gained attention in the U.S. by making the first phone to run Android, has defended itself partly by bringing two infringement cases against Apple at the trade commission in Washington, one submitted last year and another last month.

HTC also agreed to buy closely held S3 Graphics Co. less than a week after that company won a preliminary patent ruling against Cupertino, California-based Apple.

“Google knows that HTC is under tremendous legal pressure from Apple and clearly on the losing track,” Florian Mueller, a Munich-based consultant and intellectual property activist. “This intervention on Google’s part increases the likelihood of direct litigation by Apple against Google.”

I'm not so sure of this. This is more than a tit for tat schoolyard brawl. Apple faces significant risk in attacking Google directly after it has acquired the Motorola porfolio and Motorola directly. Remember, Apple is now effectively a smartphone and tablet company, as defined by both profit and revenues. In this position, it is actually quite vulnerable to a full out battle with the holder of 17 patents from the originator of the cell phone!

As excerpted fromfile icon Apple - Competition and Cost Structure 05/16/2011:



And back to the Bloomberg article...

Google, which had been issued fewer than 1,000 patents as of the start of this year, had said it would build a stronger patent portfolio as a defense against intellectual property lawsuits. It made good on that promise last month when it agreed to spend $12.5 billion to buy Motorola Mobility, acquiring more than 17,000 patents.

HTC sued Apple in federal court in Delaware, claiming infringement of four of the patents obtained from Google and originally issued to Motorola before it split into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions Inc. Google acquired one of the patents in October, two in February and one in March, according to the PTO.

And herein lies the risk to Apple's directly challenging both the largest and easily the most aggressive patent holder and OS vendor in the industry...

The lawsuit contends the Mac computer, iPhone, iPod, iPad, iCloud and iTunes are infringing patents for a way to upgrade software wirelessly; a way to transfer data between a microprocessor and a support chip; a method to store user preferences, and a way to provide consistent contact between application software and a radio modem.

Anything that materially hinders iPhone and iPad sales effectively hindes 70% to 80% of Apple's profits! A direct challenge to Google (post patent portfolio and Motorola Holdings acquiistion) is a risky proposition, indeed!

HTC also amended a complaint with the trade commission yesterday, adding five of the former Google patents to a case that targets many of the same products. Three of those patents Google bought from Openwave and two others had been owned by Palm, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) last year.

It is also a shame that Google's management was able to, in such short order, monetize the assets of Motorola in so much more an efficient manner than Motorola's own management was able to. It goes to show which company has - by far - the most astute and strategic management team.

The patents in the ITC case relate to an interface that lets the user add identifiers such as .com or .org; an interface that enlarges characters being typed; a way to display information on mobile devices; and status bars that let a user check phone calls, text messages or calendar events.

“HTC will continue to protect its patented inventions against infringement from Apple until such infringement stops,” HTC General Counsel Grace Lei said yesterday. “We believe that we have an obligation to protect our business, our industry partners and our customers, who love using our products.”

Google transfered the nine patents to HTC on Aug. 29 and the transactions were recorded by the patent agency on Sept. 1.

Openwave, a Redwood City, California-based maker of software for mobile phones, filed its own patent-infringement complaints against Apple and Research in Motion Ltd. last month.

The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Electronic Devices with Communication Capabilities, Complaint No. 2841, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington). The earlier civil case is HTC Corp. v. Apple Inc. (AAPL), 11-cv-715, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

This is very interesting indeed. If you recall, the vast majority of the non-Android industry ganged up on Google to prevent it from acquiring the Nortel patents. Google bid a whimsical derivative of Pi, which many thought was a foolish game beling played in a most serious arena... That is until they realized that Google was just causing the industry to bid up the value of these patents as it acquired the most valuable smartphone patent portfolio of all, that of the originator of the original cell phone, the original flip phone, and the largest holder of smartphone related patents in the industry - not to mention one of the top players in the cell phone industry itself (see Now, Apple Has a Direct Competitor That May Make Samsung Look Conservative In Comparison). This put Google in a very strategic position and it has already proved that it is willing to use its weapons quite aggressively to defend its turf of spreadng the negative margin, open source OS throughout the world.

This is a significant threat to Apple, Microsoft/Nokia and RIM, for Android's popularity goes way beyond lighting fast technological development and hardware diversity (see As Forecast Last Year and Clearly Demonstrated This Year, Research in Motion's Problems Are Far From Over). It's business model of "less than free" is literally beyond contagious, and if not checked will easily become (actually, it already is - in less than three years time) the dominant ultra mobile computing platform.

Google has succeeded in transforming itself into an entity that goes far, far beyond search and internet ads. Despite this transformation, many in the sell side simply seem not to understand the tremendous value locked within, and with the market about to correct very hard, a sigifinicant buying oppurtunity for the longer term investor may be manifest,

Did A Blog Best Wall Street's Best of the Best In Guaging The True Value of Google? We Have To Think More Like An Entrepeneur & Less Like A Wall Street Analyst

First of all, congratulations to all BoomBustBlog subscribers that have recieved windfall profits on their researched Google positions for the second time in less than a calendar year. Google traded down to a 4 handle as recently as a couple of weeks ago and the January 880 calls (which I kept in inventory) were trading as cheap as 5 cents each. As I type this, those same options last traded at $1.40 each (now down to 1.05)- that's a 21x-26x return! 

Google's latest quarterly results should lead many - if not most - to believe Reggie Middleton and his team at the BoomBust bests ALL of Wall Street's sell side research. For previous examples (a lot of them), reference Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best?

It is now well known that Google has once again knocked the ball out of park with their performance. Those who follow my blog know that I have been bullish on Google since the spring/summer of last year, with signfiicant profits being taken along the way. Many on the Street have turned rather negative on Google despite some of the most positive results and promising actions of its history, and in the industry! Why is that? How did I see so much value in Google while the Street was remiss, only to be taken totally and utterly by surprise? Let's take a historical traipse of my take on Google, but first we peruse the "short term-ities", looking forward only three months at at time mentality of Wall Street to ascertain why only Reggie Middleton's BoomBustBlog screamed on the The Gross Misvaluation of Google. [Subscribers, please follow along with the subscription documents - Google Q1 2011 earnings review - Google’s Q1 2011 Review: Part 2 Of My Comments On The Gross Misvaluation of Google and the subscriber forensic analysis (63 pg Google Forensic Valuation, to plug in your own assumptions see Google Valuation Model (pro and institutional).]


Has Google given investors a reason to believe in Page's diatribe?

Reference the BoomBustBlog post, A Realistic Look At The Success Of Google's Investment History

As promised, I am presenting historical justification of the logic behind my call of absurdity in the drastic drop in share price after Google announces a redoubled effort in investment and marketing of its nascent businesses. I went into the logic in detail via our Google Q1 2011 earnings review - Google’s Q1 2011 Review: Part 2 Of My Comments On The Gross Misvaluation of Google. The following pages are excerpted the subscriber forensic analysis (63 pg Google Forensic Valuation, to plug in your own assumptions see Google Valuation Model (pro and institutional).

To begin with, Google apparently realized early on that it could better realize returns by investing shareholder capital through acquisitions. It has actually been quite acquisitive, making 88 purchases over the last 13 year. Last year was Google's most acquisitive year, ever!

While many of the referenced acquisitions have been to bolster existing products, several have literally become home runs - rising to the top of their respective categories and even threatening to go farther in that hey have the distinct potential to creatively destroy the status quo of several multi-billion dollar industries. Let's walk through a sampling.

Doubleclick + Youtube + Google TV (organically grown)

This combination is probably the closest thing to a direct replacement for TV as we know it. Even if Google TV does not succeed, YouTube is currently the most watched video site, by far and Doubleclick (for monetization, along with adsense style ads) is the 2nd largest display ad entity. Again, the potential to reconfigure the TV industry. Google is already seed funding original content and cutting licensing (streaming rental) deals with the large established studios. The ability to threaten TV as we know it was purchased for just over $1 billion. A pretty good investment, no? Would the NY Times parent co., Fox, Disney, NBC/Universal have considered this a wise purchase?

Admob and Android

For a mere $250 million (plus ongoing support and development costs and investments), Google now commands the largest global footprint of mobile phone OS, the fastest global mobile phone OS growth rate, the largest (by a very, very wide margin) mobile ad presence, and inarguably the most disruptive force in mobile computing. What tech, media, telecomm or strategic investment company would NOT by the Android/Admob combo now for 10xor eve 15x what Google paid for it? Microsoft, Nokia, Apple, Samsung, LG, RIM, Oracle, IBM, HP, anyone???

The list of strategic acquisitions that have paid off in spades goes on, as well as the requisite flops that go along with a high volume strategy.

So, assuming that Google has done a good job at spending its shareholder's money and sprouting several billion dollar businesses to assist in the diversification away from pure web search advertising - and realizing that last year was Google's most acquisitive to date, and realizing that Google is dumping more money into research, marketing, headcount and acquisitions now than in any time in its existence (including last year), should you be bullish on the stock? Three or four more Androids, YouTubes, Admobs and Doubleclicks to disruptively take over 5 or six more multi-billion dollar industries is a reason to lop 15% off of this stocks price (which currently barely accounts for just the search engine potential)???

As excerpted from Google’s Q1 2011 Review: Part 2 Of My Comments On The Gross Misvaluation of Google:

For the quarter ended March 31, 2011 Google reported gross revenues (before traffic acquisition costs) of $8.58bn, an YoY increase of 26.6% and QoQ increase of 1.6% while net revenues (after traffic acquisition costs) increased 29.1% YoY and by 2.6% sequentially to $6.54bn. The YoY growth in gross and net revenues was the highest at least since 2008 demonstrating a increasingly momentum in the growth of Google’s digital ecosystem. The increase in net revenues (after TAC) was actually stronger than the increase in gross revenues, indicating that Google has not only packed in growth but lowered aggregate top line expenses.

 However, despite a strong set of results the stock took a severe beating and was down c8% as the results were short of analyst expectations. The market’s reaction to Google’s numbers clearly reflects the very myopic view of US public markets wherein a stock is dumped if it fails to beat consensus – even when this view clearly overlooks the broader picture.

Google’s adjusted earnings came in at $8.08 a share below the $8.17 expected by the markets. However, a closer look at the results reveals that the perceived shortcoming was not a result of a revenue miss or margin compression but on account of Google’s entrepreneurial (and quite applaudable – at least from this investor’s perspective) endeavor to invest heavily in future projects. The miss was principally due to higher research and development expenses as the company continues to invest in new emerging businesses like Display, Mobile and Enterprise. Research and development expenses (including stock based compensation expenses) grew 50% YoY to $1.2bn and was 14.3% of gross revenues in Q1 2011 vs. 12.5% in Q4 and 12.1% in Q1 2O10. Had research and development expenses at 12.5% of gross revenues, the earnings would have been $8.51 per share, a clear beat to consensus and stock would have seen a roller coaster ride – despite the fact that future prospects would have been a fraction of that they are now due to lower investment in the future. Google has proven that their investments yield superior returns to that of cash holdings, ex. Youtube, Android, Admob, Google Voice, Teracent, etc. Instead, the stock was pushed down 8% as the shorter term players in the market reacted. Players such as sell side analysts whose employers benefit from the shorter horizon churning of stocks vs. a longer horizon and outlook, and traders who act on price movement and not value, were(are) clearly tangled between web of OPEX (ongoing cost for running a product, business, or system) and CAPEX (expenditures creating future benefits).

You see, the Street has become so accustomed to playing the earnings management game with their favored companies that most of them have actually lost the ability to ascetain true value outside of quarterly accounting earnings!

Published in BoomBustBlog