BlackBerry has sold 90 patents related to smartphone technology to Huawei as part of the Canadian firm’s ongoing retreat from the mobile phone business.
Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported records from the US Patent and Trademark Office (US PTO) confirmed the transfer of the intellectual property, while BlackBerry's CFO also confirmed the reports in an investor call earlier this week.
BlackBerry was once the market leader in smartphones at a time when such devices were enterprise tools rather then mass-market consumer products. Businesses valued the security and management capabilities of the handsets, as well as other features such as QWERTY keyboards.
BlackBerry Huawei patent deal
However, the company then known as RIM failed to adapt to changing market trends. Apple and Android manufacturers were able to offer more desirable handsets and eroded BlackBerry’s advantage in security. The failure to launch a more modern operating system earlier than 2013 was the last straw and the company withdrew from the market in 2016.
Since then, the company has focused on the provision of mobile services and security, but CEO John Chen also wants to realise the value vast treasure trove of intellectual property it has developed. It is believed to have 38,000 patents in its library.
With that in mind, the 90 sold to Huawei represent a drop in the ocean. But some patents reflect key innovations developed by the company during its heyday such as the presentation of text and images on devices depending on its physical orientation and the geotagging of photos. However others reflect BlackBerry’s heritage in security such as the “sharing data to a group of devices.”
Some observers have questioned whether BlackBerry should be selling such IP to Huawei given it has attracted national security concerns among some of Canada’s allies.