Intellectual Ventures Licenses Patents to Mobile Data Startup Dashwire as Smaller Company Defends Itself in Court

4/6/11Follow @curtwoodward

It’s not just the tech behemoths who are girding for the patent wars. Dashwire, a Seattle cloud-services startup, today announced a licensing deal with Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myhrvold’s Bellevue, WA-based patent middleman firm. Terms were not disclosed.

Dashwire’s products synchronize and back up data from smartphones and other mobile devices to the Web. The company has been around since 2006 and has about two dozen employees, CEO and founder Ford Davidson says.

So why would a little mobile-service startup need access to a heavyweight patent portfolio like the one held by Intellectual Ventures? Because Dashwire is being sued in federal court by Synchronoss (NASDAQ: SNCR), a New Jersey-based company with a billion-dollar-plus market capitalization that provides some similar services.

Of particular concern to Synchronoss in the lawsuit was m:IQ, a data backup service offered by electronics retailer Best Buy that is based on Dashwire’s technology. Dashwire is opposing the patent lawsuit, in part on a claim that m:IQ is not its product, but Best Buy’s.

But it now has a new weapon to defend itself: intellectual property licensed from Intellectual Ventures, which claims an overall stockpile of more than 30,000 patents. The two companies didn’t identify the specific patents being licensed, but Dashwire plans to use them in the Synchronoss lawsuit. “The landscape is littered with litigation. It’s like a battlefield in the smartphone space,” Davidson says.

Just this week, Google jumped into that battlefield by placing a $900 million bid for patents from bankrupt telecommunications company Nortel. With its Android mobile operating system making huge gains in market share, vice president and counsel Kent Walker wrote that Google now finds itself needing more intellectual property to defend against lawsuits.

“We’re doing it for the same exact reasons. We’re just not quite as big as Google,” Davidson says. “But we at least found a big dog to help us.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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