Over at PaidContent.org, an article went up yesterday about The Facebook Fight attempting to explain to us mere mortals How Yahoo Could Win, Lose Or Draw. The article is chock full of useful, and completely made up, information including “odds” on the various outcomes.
Granted, the author admits the posted odds are both speculative and “unofficial,” which leaves one wondering: In what way could odds on winning or losing a patent case be official? While this may have been a clever attempt at making a boring story about patents into an interesting one, the fact that there are real statistics from which to draw illustrates the author’s ignorance and lack of interest in actually reporting facts. So where did the author go wrong? For starters:
This past September, Canadian patent licensing company MOSAID acquired 400 patent families from Nokia through a purchase of Core Wireless S.a.r.l. The purchase netted MOSAID 2000 total patents, of which more than 1200 are reportedly “standards essential” for 2G, 3G and 4G wireless standards. MOSAID claims that “it made no upfront payments to acquire the Core Wireless portfolio” and will retain one third of licensing revenue generated. Meanwhile, Microsoft already “secured a license to the Nokia patents now acquired by MOSAID” and retains “a passive economic interest in the revenue generated from the licensing of those patents to third parties.”
A patentee takes great risks. They deserve protection.
Those are the words of Joe Atler, inventor of certain CGI techniques (US Patent 6,720,962) and self-made champion of his own cause. After getting the proverbial ‘run-around’ from Disney executives, Alter sued back in October, without a lawyer or law firm to back him up. Alter now claims, and court records confirm, that he and Disney agreed to a settlement.
I fought this case pro-se [no attorney] because I was pissed off. It was a real learning experience, but it’s empowering to know that you can, in fact, do it.
Publicly traded Acacia Research (NASDAQ: ACTG) invests shareholder money into patent assets, playing a key role in the technology creation life-cycle: making sure the original creators of the technology get paid for their work. Recently, Acacia invested a sizable portion of its cash ($160 MM) into a company called ADAPTIX, garnering a small but potent patent portfolio of 4G handset and infrastructure technology.
Intellectual Ventures made a name for itself by (originally) negotiating patent licenses outside of litigation. However, when those prospects started to run dry, IV launched a warning shot–which later appeared a bit underwhelming for a mass aggregator holding tens of thousands of patents. This opening blow was followed by a series of targeted rifle shots, like their ITC enforcement action against Hynix and Elpida. What these lawsuits collectively lacked was shock-and-awe, like Jay Walker’s bold protestation against widespread, uncompensated use of his company’s IP. Until now, that is.
Few patent owners are more reviled by the tech community than Eolas, the company formed by Michael Doyle, inventor of US Patent 5,838,906. The patent–filed in 1994, and reexamined by the patent office not once, but twice–purportedly reads on technologies like web browsers, that parse and format “hypermedia” documents. Back in 2003, with attorneys from Robins Kaplan–one of the few majors willing to fight for inventors and small companies like Eolas–a Chicago jury agreed that Microsoft infringed the ’906 Patent, awarding $500 M in damages.
In September 2011, flawed research from a handful of Boston University professors made headlines with several highly popular news organizations claiming that patent owners were somehow responsible for a net loss of billions of dollars in wealth from corporate America. Joff Wild at IAM Magazine accurately predicted that the research would be well received and widespread, despite the fact that the authors’ ultimate point is that a given company’s stock price decreased after patent lawsuits were announced. Sadly, Joff was absolutely right.
Acacia recently pulled of a mammoth purchase–$160 MM for 4G technology company ADAPTIX and it’s portfolio of 30+ confirmed US assets (in the form of issued patents) and numerous other potential assets (in the form of pending applications). By the numbers, this is a several-million dollar per patent purchase, rivaling the recent Nortel auction in comparative value. Joff Wild and the folks at IAM Magazine chalked this acquisition–which exceeds Acacia’s entire valuation of three years ago–up to Acacia’s recent growth, but there is an alternative theory worth considering.
When patent aggregator RPX debuted with more than a billion dollar valuation, they warned us a bubble was coming.
When Rockstar Bidco paid $4.5 B to acquire an aging Nortel portfolio, and Google paid $12 B just to (allegedly) gut a company’s patents, they told us there was no bubble.
Then, on January 13, 2012, in what is probably one of the company’s largest acquisitions to date, Acacia announced a $160 M purchase of Adaptix (along with its portfolio of apparently LTE “essential” patents). Acacia shares immediately spiked and have been rising ever since. To put that number in perspective, consider that the $4.5 B paid for the Nortel patents worked out to somewhere between $750,000 and $2.25M per patent, depending on how you count the assets.
Google’s been on an IP shopping spree lately, snatching up large swaths of patents at a time. One of the more notable transactions is an apparent deal with IBM that was at least partially inked back in March, and continues to make headlines almost a year later. (FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller indicated that the majority of the license agreements were signed in May, but I found a handful signed as early as March 2011). The blog SEO by the Sea recently kicked off the latest round of headlines by noting a 217 IP asset transfer from Big Blue to the infinite pun.