BlackBerry's patents could be worth $5bn if it finds a single buyer

BlackBerry's patents could be worth $5bn if it finds a single buyer

Summary: While BlackBerry's future is still to be decided, the value of its patents is looking more certain.

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With a possible sale on BlackBerry's agenda, the Canadian company's patents are shaping up as its most valuable assets, according to analysts.

BlackBerry's failure to fire up its ailing handset business has left its pool of roughly 9,000 patents as the most attractive asset on the table as it examines options for its future, including selling the company.

Five alternative futures for BlackBerry

Five alternative futures for BlackBerry

Five alternative futures for BlackBerry

One reason its patents are so valuable to the industry, according to Christ Marlett, CEO of MDB Capital Group is that they are "last big and current [wireless] portfolio available", he told AllThingsD.

Marlett believes BlackBerry's roughly 9,000-patent stash is worth between $2bn to $3bn if it was acquired by a consortium and up to $5bn if it was acquired by a single purchaser under pressure in a bidding war. Potential buyers include Microsoft, Google, Apple and Samsung.

Some of the patents may include those BlackBerry acquired as a member of the consortium that purchased 6,000 patents from bankrupt Nortel. BlackBerry ponied up approximately $775m for its share of Nortel's wireless patents.

According to a Reuters report, buying anything beyond BlackBerry's patents could be problematic since winding down its troubled handset business could cost in the region of $2bn.

On the other hand, despite its drastically shrunken marketshare, BlackBerry still has a solid grip on the enterprise market through BlackBerry Enterprise Server and a big global footprint, Marlett noted, and it could be attractive to a buyer like Microsoft.     

"Someone like Microsoft could justify paying $4bn to $5bn for the business, and $4bn to $5bn for the IP, which would yield an $8bn to $10bn purchase price," Marlett told AllThingsD.

Topics: BlackBerry, Mobility, Patents

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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14 comments
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  • Microsoft has enough patents

    Google has Motorola, Apple has bought enough IP.
    For me the most obvious buyer is Samsung - they have the money and they need the patents.
    Others could try to grab them, but it will be more like so others don't get it - probably a terrible waste of money.
    Samsung wants to be strong inside enterprises and BlackBerry has the know how.
    AleMartin
  • Are these FRAND patents?

    Because "certain parties" seem determined to make FRAND patents worth a lot less by making them harder to defend against unlicenced use...
    Zogg
  • Why is everyone talking like BB is already dead?

    Just asking.
    William Farrel
    • cause it is very soon

      by the end of the year you wont see a bb phone on market... they may support the device until a certain date but wont see like you once did...
      ITGuy000
  • Patents are NOT shareholder value. bz#

    Look at Nokia. Since Microsoft
    hacho
    • Woops

      Wanted to say:
      Since Microsoft took over the company is worth nothing despite of their patents.
      Elop burned all the TRUE shareholder value.
      hacho
      • Fact is, MS saved Nokia from dying, like Palm died,

        and like HP's smartphone business died.

        Without Microsoft and WP, Nokia would have died, and even if they had turned to Android for an OS, they would not have been any better off than the lowliest of players in the Android ecosystem.

        As it is, Nokia and WP are slowly gaining market-share, and are gaining ground on Apple, and could, in a 1-2 years, overtake Apple in smartphones sales, and 2 years after, it could easily overtake Android once people start noticing the strength of Nokia/WP devices; heck, overtaking Android could happen within 2 years. Android wasn't even at the level Nokia Lumias are at now after less than a year in the market.
        adornoe
        • Not sure if Nokia is gaining

          From the graph:
          www.xbitlabs.com/images/news/2013-07/nokia_smartphone_sales_q2_2013.png

          They did sold 7.4M from the lower point of. 6.3M, but there are more smartphones being sold now - if share has improved it was really small.
          More striking is that they went from more than 24M to 7 since lumia launch with a market that is a lot bigger!
          After iPhone and with symbian Nokia share was going down, but not like this - from q4 2008 to q4 2009, I guess, they went from 42% share to 39% per example (and yes Nokia once owned near 50% smartphone share - not a typo).
          AleMartin
          • AleMartin: You're still not looking at reality, and the reality is that,

            Nokia had no choice, and they had to start over, and when starting over, they were not going to be at the level they were when they were on top, or near the top. It's growing pains all over again. But growing they are, and those in front are starting to look over their shoulders, since the whole WP8 ecosystem is gaining, even if slowly at first. Apple is the one most worried at the moment, because, they are actually within striking distance to the WP8 smartphones. It could take just one short year to get within equality to iPhone levels. The Nokia name is highly regarded and world-known, and Microsoft is without a doubt, the best known OS and software maker in the world, and that combination will prove to be a force to be reckoned with. I can't even think of a smartphone right now that is better than what Nokia puts out, and with the best OS for smartphones inside, that's a robust combo that will prove unbeatable in due time.
            adornoe
          • They had more choices

            Improve symbian - with a decline that was nothing like the one after Windows.
            Go meego - with the reviews, even if sometimes the underdog seems to be more loved.
            Go android - like many others are doing with more success and without the Nokia name.
            LG has once tried to go Windows - their smartphones almost disappeared, with android they are breathing again.
            Windows is known my everyone, but it's not loved, doesn't mean innovation, it's a commodity that comes with a new pc for majority.
            AleMartin
          • Fix

            meego - with rave reviews

            Windows is known by everyone
            AleMartin
          • Meego: holding on to the failed past isn't going to win over customers,

            and going with a proven and respected product, like Windows, is not only safe, but prudent and smart.
            adornoe
          • You think you know more about Nokia than the CEO and management

            over there.

            Apparently, they decided against Symbian, after they noticed that Symbian wasn't going to be competitive, and was likely not going to hold on to their customers.

            Same thing with Meego. People are always the greatest judges in the world, after the fact.

            With Android, Nokia would have been just another one of the pack, near the bottom, like so many others, with Samsung 20-30 times the sales as what Nokia probably would have had. How many of the Android OEMs are actually making any kind of decent money?

            So, how is LG doing with Android? It's another one of those lowly players in a market hugely dominated by Samsung. The only winners in the Android space, are Samsung and Google, and Microsoft, with their Android fees from all of those OEMs. In fact, Microsoft makes more money from Android than most of the Android OEMs.

            Microsoft doesn't need to be loved, and neither does Windows, but, it's what most people understand in PCs, and will understand in tablets and smartphones. Oftentimes, using what's most expedient, is more important than loving a product or company. And, there is a lot more innovation in the Windows ecosystem than in Google and Android and Apple combined. The Windows ecosystem will be a lot more valuable to consumers than anything that Google or Apple can ever devise.
            adornoe
        • Not sure if Nokia is gaining

          From the graph:
          www.xbitlabs.com/images/news/2013-07/nokia_smartphone_sales_q2_2013.png

          They did sold 7.4M from the lower point of. 6.3M, but there are more smartphones being sold now - if share has improved it was really small.
          More striking is that they went from more than 24M to 7 since lumia launch with a market that is a lot bigger!
          After iPhone and with symbian Nokia share was going down, but not like this - from q4 2008 to q4 2009, I guess, they went from 42% share to 39% per example (and yes Nokia once owned near 50% smartphone share - not a typo).
          AleMartin