Pendrell forks over $90 million for ContentGuard, gobbling up more than 250 patents

Pendrell Corp., the Kirkland company formerly known as ICO Global, today announced that it is paying $90.1 million in cash to purchase a 90.1 percent stake in El Segundo, California-based ContentGuard Holdings. After the deal closes, Tim Warner will hold 9.9 percent of the company and be entitled to appoint a board member.

ContentGuard was started at Xerox PARC in 2000, and since then has accumulated more than 260 patents in the digital rights management and content distribution space. Companies that have licensed ContentGuard’s technologies include Microsoft, Nokia, LG Electronics, Sony, Casio and Hitachi Mobile.

In a statement, Pendrell CEO Ben Wolff said that the patent portfolio is “well proven” with about 50 percent of mobile handsets currently holding a ContentGuard patent.

Obviously, the patent wars in the smartphone arena have been getting more intense in recent months, consuming the attention (and dollars) of big names such as HTC, Google, Apple and Samsung. Just yesterday, mobile handset maker Samsung said that it had entered into an agreement with Microsoft to pay the software giant royalties related to its use of the Android operating system.

“We believe that ContentGuard’s DRM technologies set the standard for protecting content in virtually every instance where content is transferred to a connected device — from mobile phones to tablets, set top boxes, e-readers, game consoles, DVD players, personal computer and televisions,” said Wolff, the former CEO of Clearwire.

With the buy and the purchase earlier this year of Ovidian Group, Pendrell appears to be transforming itself into a patent holding company in the spirit of Intellectual Ventures.

The company, which recently named former Clearwire execs Robert Mechaley Jr. and Mark Fanning to the team, describes itself as “a leader in innovative IP solutions and a trusted partner to the world’s leading technology companies.”

Originally started by wireless pioneer Craig McCaw, ICO Global worked on a satellite communications business. Despite massive amounts of funding, the business never really took off.