InterDigital and the ITC Staff Report: Some Thoughts

| About: InterDigital, Inc. (IDCC)

The staff attorney assigned to the InterDigital-Samsung ITC dispute favored Samsung [KSX: 5930] in his report. His position was that there is no violation calls for rejecting InterDigital's (NASDAQ:IDCC) proposal to ban disputed Samsung products in the US. InterDigital's stock took a 25% dip, as the Street is now pessimistic about its prospects. As the drama unfolds, here is an attempt to even out public perception. Before you read on, however, please note that I am neither a legal expert nor a Wall Street analyst. So, take it for what it is, just an opinion.

First, while the staff report is an unbiased third-party opinion on the case, it is still only one instrument for the Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] to decide. The judge is yet to hear both companies' positions. The staff report is not binding on the judge. There is precedence in the past where the ALJ has acted against the staff recommendation. Therefore, while InterDigital has lost some positioning in this case now, the staff recommendation is certainly not the end of the road for this ITC dispute.

Second, contrary to what I alluded to in my last post, an unfavorable decision by the ALJ will only reject the call to ban Samsung phones in the US. Besides, one theory is that a 'no violation' decision may be the result of the staff attorney finding that this is a licensing dispute that has to be amicably resolved between the parties, and does not without warrant a ban.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, InterDigital has many more things going for it beyond the ITC dispute. Most notably, the company has already licensed to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Research In Motion (RIMM), both of whom are battling it out in the smartphone market. It is also very likely to be a beneficiary of the 3G iPhone to be released shortly. Ironically enough, Samsung sources 3G chipsets for some of its designs from Infineon. These phones will hence use InterDigital's 3G-protocol stack and, like the 3G iPhone, contribute per-unit royalties to the King of Prussia-based company. You can find more about InterDigital's products and strategies here and here.

Finally, for the curious minds who are wondering what will happen to InterDigital's valuation if the Samsung case goes against it, I will direct you to my February 2008 valuation post here. A nominal assumption on the total royalty money gave me a $75/share valuation then. You can look at the revenue impact of the royalty rate replete with graphs there.

In summary, I feel that the sell position taken by many investors is understandable. InterDigital is a volatile story stock and the ITC staff report did little to buttress investor confidence. On the other hand, a 25% drop seems unwarranted in the light of a) lack of enough information given that the case is still in its preliminary stages and b) many other developments to look forward to from InterDigital.

Disclosure: The author was long IDCC at the time of writing.

[PS: Thanks to all the readers who responded to my previous post.]

[Disclaimer: All thoughts expressed by Vijay Nagarajan in his articles are his and do not necessarily reflect those of either Atheros Communications or TensorComm Inc.]