Despite consensus view of a slow patent market, OLED technology may present opportunities for big-money deals

More likely than not, anyone working at the patent transactions coalface will tell you that today’s market is considerably quieter than it was just four years ago. Back then, the industry had grown accustomed to the multimillion-dollar deals like the $4.5 billion auctioning off of bankrupt telco Nortel’s patents, AOL’s $1.05 billion sale of patents to Microsoft (and Microsoft’s subsequent $550 million sale of some of these on to Facebook) and Intel’s purchase of 1,700 3G and long-term evolution patents to Intel for $375 million.

Clearly, the deals taking place in today’s market are not hitting those astronomical nine and 10-figure values. For one thing, the feted ‘smartphone wars’ are all but finished; moreover, legislative and judicial trends in the United States have contributed towards making today’s enforcement environment much tougher for rights holders than it was back in 2012.

Nevertheless, it is not the case that all patent transactions are solely dependent on litigation trends. Companies that are looking to exit a particular market in order to refocus their efforts in other areas may find themselves with non-core IP assets that they sell for cash or to enable some other form of deal. Likewise, businesses pinning their growth plans on new fields may be seeking to buy third-party patents in order to hasten their market entry.

The organic light-emitting diode (OLED) space is one such industry. Back in July, this blog analysed the €87 million (approximately US$96 million) deal which saw BASF transfer over 500 issued and pending patents covering OLED technology to Universal Display Corporation (UDC).

UDC was on the receiving end of a similar deal back in 2012, when Fujifilm sold its 1,200-strong OLED patent portfolio to the US company for $105 million.

Last month, Japan’s Nissan Chemical reached an agreement to buy patents and know-how relating to soluble hole injection and hole transport materials for coating-type OLEDs from Belgium’s Solvay. According to, Solvay had been engaged in the OLED business since acquiring bankrupt printed electronics company Plextronics in 2014. However, Solvay decided to exit the industry as it foresaw further delays in the introduction of soluble OLEDs – an area where Nissan Chemical obviously believes it can leverage opportunities. Financial details of this transaction were not disclosed.

OLED technologies have applications across a wide range of fields, including architectural lighting, automotive lighting, medical devices and display technology, to name just a few. As such, owners of OLED patents have a host of potential opportunities for selling their assets; while businesses looking to strengthen their IP position in these areas could consider acquiring third-party OLED portfolios.

At time of writing, there are 28 LED-related packages on offer on IAM Market. You can view them here.

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