BlackBerry sells mobile patents to patent troll for $600M

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BlackBerry has sold a collection of legacy patents covering mobile technologies for $600M, a deal that will likely result in increased legal drama for smartphone producers like Apple in the future.

Announced on Monday, BlackBerry has agreed to a patent sale agreement, which has the former smartphone giant handing over its non-core patent assets to Catapult IP Innovations for $600 million. The transaction will grant BlackBerry $450 million in cash and a promissory note for $150 million, as well as a license back for the patents.

The collection of patents relate to mobile devices, messaging, and wireless networking IPs. BlackBerry specifically says that the sale will not affect customers using its products or services.

While the assurance may be good for consumers, the deal may not be so fortuitous for tech firms in the mobile market.

Catapult IP Innovations is described by BlackBerry as "a Delaware company" that is a "special purpose vehicle formed to acquire the BlackBerry patent assets." The company is funded by a $450 million senior secure loan, which includes $400 million of "conditional commitments from a lending syndicate" led by Third Eye Capital.

BlackBerry's sale is to what could be considered a "Non-practicing entity," a company that doesn't earn revenue from product or services sales, but is more likely to do so through asset protection. Many refer to these sorts of entities as "patent trolls."

Since there's an expected return on investment, it is likely that the patents will be used to encourage royalty payments from device producers, potentially through lawsuits.

Blackberry's patents have been used to sue other companies in the past, such as legal action in March 2018 against Facebook over Facebook messenger.

Apple has also been a target of a patent lawsuit based on the work of Research in Motion, BlackBerry's former name. In 2019, Non-practicing entity Fundamental Innovation Systems accused Apple of infringing on multiple payments concerning USB charging and communication technologies.

The patent sale is conditional upon the satisfaction of regulatory conditions, including the U.S. Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and the Investment Canada Act, which could take up to 210 days to complete.