Nokia dumps Qt and over 500 patents in an attempt to stay alive

Nokia made two very important announcements this week. The first relates to a technology known as Qt. Back in January 2008 the Finnish handset maker purchased a Norwegian company called Trolltech for roughly $150 million. The goal of the acquisition was to slap their technology, Qt, on top of S40, Symbian, and MeeGo, so that developers could write applications for Nokia devices using a unified framework. Fast forward to the present day and Nokia has yet to port Qt to S40, they’ve abandoned Symbian and MeeGo, and Stephen Elop, the current CEO, has bet the company’s future on Windows Phone. Since Nokia doesn’t need Qt anymore, they’ve decided to sell the team to a Finnish company called Digia. Some 125 employees will be moved. Details of the transaction weren’t disclosed, but it’s safe to say that Nokia received no where near what they paid for Trolltech over four years ago.

The second announcement relates to a topic we know no one like to talk about, patents. Nokia sold more than 500 patents to a company called “Vringo”. They’re in the business of selling video ringtones, but according to the press release announcing the patent purchase they’re also “a company engaged in the innovation, development and monetization of mobile technologies and intellectual property.” In other words, they’re a patent troll. According to The Wall Street Journal, Vringo paid Nokia $22 million for said patents. What’s noteworthy here is that Vringo purchased 124 “families” (read: groups) of patents, of which 31 are considered essential to wireless technology. To put it in plain English: Vringo is going to collect royalties from everyone and anyone that makes anything with a cellular radio inside.

So what do these deals mean? Companies, like people, need money to survive. Nokia is burning through their cash reserves at an alarming rate and they need to stop bleeding in order to make sure that they can live to fight another day. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that you can expect to hear about more of these patent sales as the year continues.

Update: Looks like Digia paid 4 million EUR ($4.9 million) for Qt.

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Author: Stefan

Stefan has been writing about the mobile phone industry since November 2006. He also spent 14 months at Nokia between 2008 and 2009, but has since purchased a Nexus One and an Apple iPhone. He's watching Windows Phone like a hawk, hoping it'll get better with time.