After a year focused on downsizing, Intellectual Ventures returns as the brokered patent market’s leading buyer

Intellectual Ventures (IV) was the top buyer of brokered patents in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to data from ROL Group, a Californian IP law and strategy firm and an IAM Market vendor. This ratcheting-up of buying activity represents a return to sorts for IV, which has been a much quieter participant in the secondary market of late as compared to times gone by.

According to ROL Group data reported by Bloomberg, IV purchased five brokered packages in 2016 Q4, comprising 165 US-issued patents and 172 assets in total. Among the sellers to IV were Panasonic, from which it bought portfolios relating wireless telecommunications and electric motors used in household appliances including air-conditioners. The firm also picked up assets covering computer networking and cloud services from Utah-based Adaptive Computing.

These buys placed it substantially further ahead than defensive aggregator RPX, which bought 113 assets across seven packages over the same period. As the IAM Market blog reported last week, RPX overtook IV as the brokered market’s most prolific buyer last year – marking the first time in five years that IV had not been in the lead.

IV has spent the last few years gradually rowing back on the capacious patent acquisition activity that it had become known for. An increasingly difficult licensing and assertion landscape in the United States, coupled with more general economic uncertainty, has led to patent portfolio trimming not just for NPEs like IV, but across the board. There were also reports that IV’s most recently established acquisition fund had struggled to pique investor interest.

Speaking to IAM magazine in October 2015, IV’s president and COO Adriane Brown indicated that the firm would be reducing the size of its overall portfolio, and since then it has completed a handful of significant divestitures. These have included several sales to monetisation-focused businesses Equitable IP and Dominion Harbor. With regards to its most recent deal with the latter, IV made what looks to be its largest ever disposal of patent assets – with the transfer of more than 1,000 patent families that it had originally acquired as a result of Kodak’s bankruptcy in 2012. We can still expect to see IV doing plenty of deals like this on the sell side; but this latest brokered market data proves that it is far from finished as a major buying force either.

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