InterDigital Gets Its Thrill Back

Barely a month ago, I quipped that wireless technology licensor and Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation InterDigital (Nasdaq: IDCC  ) lacked anything thrilling in its latest earnings release. I also noted that the stock would be volatile based upon news coming out of several ongoing legal disputes.

Well it didn't take long for the company to answer with the scintillating news that it has made substantial progress in resolving all ongoing disputes with top device maker Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) . As the company laid out in an 8-K SEC filing, not all the news is good though, as a New York court ordered InterDigital to enter into arbitration with Nokia. While InterDigital is appealing the ruling, the mix of news was good enough to boost InterDigital's stock by nearly 15%.

Instead of arbitration, InterDigital had been hoping to move forward with an investigation handled by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which could hold more severe consequences for Nokia. InterDigital's complaints at the ITC also include motions against patent holdout Samsung, which is unaffected by the recent Nokia ruling.

A Supreme Court ruling in a case between eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) and MercExchange in 2006 has made it much more difficult for companies to obtain product injunctions through the courts. Thus, many companies have turned to the ITC for relief. For instance, chip maker Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM  ) has successfully earned a ban on some of Qualcomm's (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) chips, thanks to the ITC.

InterDigital was hoping the agency would give it some grit to command a better deal. Just as Qualcomm's ban has threatened product rollouts with carriers such as AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , InterDigital was hoping the fear of having Nokia phones pulled from shelves would more quickly settle the spat in its favor.

A full-blown settlement with Nokia would be good news for InterDigital shareholders, not simply for the sizable payment that is likely to go along with it, but for the leverage it would give InterDigital against Samsung and any other manufacturer balking at paying for licenses. Until that occurs, though -- assuming it happens at some point -- investors should expect more dramatic swings in InterDigital's stock.

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