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Openwave Sells Off Businesses, Renames Itself Unwired Planet

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 7:10am
Maisie Ramsay

Openwave Systems is paring itself down to patents and renaming itself under a moniker it held in the mid-1990s as it seeks to cash in on the lucrative intellectual property market. 

The mobile Internet pioneer, which holds about 200 patents and 75 patent applications, said today it is selling off its primary mediation and messaging businesses to Marlin Equity Partners for an undisclosed sum as it shifts its business to patent licensing.  

The remaining entity will be called Unwired Planet, a name it used in 1996 before becoming Openwave. It will remain a publicly traded company.

CEO Mike Mulica said in the company's announcement that the sale to Marlin marked a "major milestone" in its new corporate strategy.  Mulica has been a major driver of the patent initiative since he took his post last October. 

"As we complete the sale of our product businesses, we will continue to focus on a multi-pronged strategy to realize the value of our unique patent portfolio," Mulica said.

Marlin will operate the divested businesses as Openwave Messaging and Openwave Mobility and will retain their management staff after the transaction's expected close later this month. Financial terms of the deal were not announced.  

Openwave said in January it was looking into "strategic alternatives" for its mediation and messaging business as part of a shift toward licensing its patents, many of which it claims are "foundational" to the mobile Internet. It sold off its location business to a subsidiary of Persistent Systems in February, another prong of its patent strategy. 

Admitting to shareholders that it "did not fully capitalize on the business potential of its legacy," the company sued Apple and Research In Motion last August for patent infringement. The case is still pending before the International Trade Commission and a Delaware district court.  

The company has been ramping up its licensing activity since 2009, pursuing small cases to test the strength of its portfolio before going full-bore into the licensing business.

Openwave is in the midst of a restructuring targeted at slashing its operating expenses by 30 percent, a reduction requiring it to lay off up to one-fifth of its employees. The company posted widening losses and declines in revenue during its most recent financial results, when its year-over-year net loss more than doubled to $10.4 million for the last three months of 2011. 

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