Mr. Market Ignored InterDigital's Earnings

Snap, crackle, pop!

That's the soundtrack to InterDigital's (Nasdaq: IDCC  ) stock chart lately. The collector, wrangler, and enforcer of wireless patents has seen its shares gain 67% in the last month in a series of sharp jumps and slow declines.

Wireless patents are hot, hot, hot right now after a treasure trove of Nortel patents sold for a whopping $4.5 billion. The ragtag yet ritzy consortium of buyers includes unlikely allies Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , as well as mobile oddball EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) .

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) put in an early bid but lost big-time, perhaps in more ways than one -- the only reasonable explanation for that team to come together and buy patents would be to attack Big G's Android platform. So if anyone's likely to buy InterDigital for its patent hoard, Google would be it. Patents can be used for defense as well as offense, you know. And InterDigital has made it clear that it would love to get buyout offers.

Given the buyout electricity crackling around InterDigital, you'd think that an earnings report might not make much of a difference to the stock -- and you'd be right.

Second-quarter revenue fell 23% year-over-year to $70 million, mainly due to a one-time back payment from LG Electronics in the year-ago period. Earnings dropped about 50% to $0.37 per share. None of that mattered, and share prices shot up 6% in early trading only to settle down at a small one-day loss later on.

Google is clearly hungry for defensive patents, having just bought a basket of more than 1,000 technology patents from IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) . The Big Blue technologies are mostly related to the kinds of memory and other chip hardware you might find in computer systems -- probably including mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

It's a strategy of mutually assured destruction. "Sue us and we'll sue you right back," followed by back-and-forth negotiations and perhaps a settlement. Woe betide those who come to this gunfight equipped with anything less than a howitzer.

Will InterDigital become Google's little friend? Investors seem to think so, and it does make a ton of sense. To follow the company into perhaps its last days as a stand-alone business, just click here to add InterDigital to your watchlist. It's a great way to stay on top of news and analysis of any stock you'd care to investigate.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Research In Motion, Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and EMC. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, InterDigital, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a covered collar position in Microsoft, as well as a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him on Twitter or Google+, or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On July 29, 2011, at 3:55 PM, doubleDownDave wrote:

    Anders, your article is a fun and concise read of the situation.

    I do offer this view: Instead of characterizing InterDigital as a “collector, wrangler, and enforcer of wireless patents”, I’d call them an inventor, innovator, and collaborative standards setter. The company deserves more credit than you give them. They have a couple hundred highly trained engineers who, over the past three decades, have literally invented and patented about 15% of all wireless communications technology. They have worked hard and smart developing these ideas. Their shareowners deserve to get their reward of a thin slice of the very big pie that is the revenue being generated from the mobile communications explosion.

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