You’d be forgiven for not recognizing the name InterDigital, despite the fact that it has been around since 1972 and developed many of the technologies that are critical to our increasingly mobile, wireless world. As a result, per employee, InterDigital is the most profitable company in the US, with a net income of $937,255 per worker, according to Bloomberg’s just-released visual compendium of data. And the only thing InterDigital produces is designs for new technology—and the occasional lawsuit.
But whatever you do, don’t call InterDigital a patent troll—CEO William Merritt hates that term. And it’s admittedly not a fair label for InterDigital, in contrast to firms that merely buy up patents in order to then sue other people over them. Like ARM, the Cambridge, UK-based company that designs the chips that are in practically every mobile device on the planet, InterDigital does not manufacture anything itself. Yet the company employs more than 200 engineers who have collectively helped InterDigital amass a trove of patents that could be worth billions. InterDigital also creates working prototypes of all of its technologies, in order to demonstrate them to industry partners like Alcatel-Lucent, who later incorporate them into their products.