Patent aggregation and investment firm Intellectual Ventures (IV) has been through its fair share of ups and downs over the past few years. It has begun to edge closer to positive returns for its shareholders, has successfully spun out a number of businesses and has entered into a number of forward-looking industry partnerships. But IV has also had to cut its workforce, has experienced mixed fortunes when asserting its IP rights in court and reportedly struggled to secure financial backing for its most recent patent acquisition fund, Invention Investment Fund 3 (IIF3).
Nevertheless, if recent deals connected to IV are anything to go by, the company firmly remains as a key player in the patent marketplace.
IAM revealed last week that Shenzhen-based display panel maker China Star Optoelectronics Technology (CSOT) purchased an LCD-relevant portfolio including 53 US patent assets from an IV-linked entity named Intellectuals High-Tech KFT. This portfolio had originally been owned by Japan’s Seiko Epson; USPTO records indicate that Intellectuals High-Tech has almost exclusively acquired patents from Japanese corporates since its first assignment in September 2011. Many of these were eventually transferred to III Holdings 3 LLC – a vehicle associated with IIF3.
Last month, IV announced two deals with other patent monetisation-focused companies. In the first of these it sold a portfolio of “fundamental networking and wireless assets” to an affiliate of Texas-based Dominion Harbor Group. The latter’s CEO, David Pridham, said that the patent portfolio purchased from IV “continues our plans to maintain strong partnerships throughout the US, Europe and Asia,” hinting at the extent of its jurisdictional coverage.
A second transaction in November saw IV sell a “seminal portfolio of patents in the online gaming space” to Equitable IP Holdings, a patent monetisation and litigation financing firm set up by former ICAP Patent Brokerage chief Dean Becker.
What is striking about these last two deals is that they are public knowledge because IV itself announced them. Of course, IV has been buying and selling patents pretty much since its formation in 2000. But until now it was practically unheard of for the company to put out a press release to publicise one of the presumably substantial number of transactions in which it participates each year. The IV of old wanted to keep as much as possible under wraps – an approach that proved a two-edged sword; while it kept the firm’s deal-making activity private, the same veil of secrecy fuelled suspicion about IV and its motives, ultimately fanning the flames of the ‘patent troll’ narrative it hoped to avoid.
The new IV, however, seems keen to show the world that it is busy doing deals. Research from IAM Market vendor ROL Group published earlier this year found that IV has been making clear efforts to divest more and more patents of late as it tries to cut costs and increase returns. The deals with CSOT, Dominion Harbor and Equitable IP stand as testament to those efforts; and, by publicly announcing such transactions, IV is sending a clear message to the market: “We’re open for business.”