Madison Avenue: An Emerging Center for IP Commerce

Mad Men Thrive in Mid-Town –

Once the iconic Main Street of the advertising industry, Madison Avenue has quietly evolved into a center for Manhattan’s emerging intellectual property businesses.

Don Draper, flamboyant Mad Men creative director, however, needn’t worry about the new neighbors cramping his style. They’re too busy pouring over patent claims on inventions to care.

Within a few square blocks of Madison Avenue, in mid-town Manhattan from 34th to 57th Streets, a group of notable, if somewhat secretive IP strategists, investors, lawyers and service providers work quietly. Many are leading the way in patent monetization or defense. Collectively they comprise a 21st century NY commercial center, similar to the fur, flower or meat packing districts of the past.

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Leading the pack are Altitude Capital Partners, 485 Madison, and Coller Capital, 410 Park Avenue, IP-focused investors.  ACP is one of the leading funds for IP oriented investing and UK-based Coller is one of the largest independent holders and licensers of patents.

IP law boutique Berry & Associates at 551 Madison is led by Francine Berry, former chief IP counsel of AT&T and, more recently chief negotiator for a $2 billion patent licensing program, one of the most successful in history.

Former New York Kirkland & Ellis patent litigator John Desmarais recently established IP law firm Desmarais LLP at 230 Park (home to IP research and communications firm Brody Berman Associates from 2003-2008). The law firm’s affiliate, Westchester-based Round Rock Research acquired 4,000 patents from semiconductor giant Micron Technology that his DLLP is licensing. At Kirkland, 601 Lexington Avenue, Desmarais was responsible for the $1.5 billion verdict in favor of Alcatel-Lucent against Microsoft, the largest plaintiff’s jury award in a patent infringement action.

Patent quality purveyor and prior art search firm Article One Partners is at 488 Madison (BBA HQ from 1990-1997), where former IBM and Microsoft chief IP business strategist and IP Hall of Fame member, Marshall Phelps, is director.  AOP has helped to mitigate patent disputes.

Also in mid-town is Fortress Investment Group (NYSE: FIG) at 1345 Sixth (Avenue of the Americas, for those out-of-towners). FIG is an investor in IPCom, licensing vehicle for key Bosch patents.  Brody Berman, 16 E. 34th Street, just west of Madison, and Amphion Innovations (LSE: AMP), UK-based VC and investor in IP-centric companies at 330 Madison, also hang in the hood. Amphion owns a major stake in business life science and business software companies like, DataTern, Inc., which has 29 patent licenses.

Technology transfer leaders Rockefeller University, NYU and Columbia are all in Manhattan, as is John Squires, former Associate Counsel in charge of IP at Goldman Sachs and currently the co-head of IP at Chadbourne & Parke, 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Also nearby at 1155 Sixth Avenue is Charles River Associates (NASDAQ: CRAI), the IP valuation and strategy firm.

If readers are aware of other IP businesses in the area, please convey them either in a comment or an email to me.

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Ironically, Madison Avenue’s namesake, James Madison, was The U.S. Constitution’s leading proponent of strong IP rights. He successfully argued against Thomas Jefferson in the Federalist Papers #43 for a patent system that would facilitate innovation and generate commerce. Exclusivity in exchange for sharing ideas, Madison reasoned, is a great deal for a growing nation, especially those looking to establish new ideas. Though he was a prolific inventor, Jefferson was less enthusiastic about granting patents.

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Why Mid-town Manhattan North? Possibly because IP businesses require less space and fewer people, and the recession has made office rents somewhat more affordable. Also, it is useful to be in proximity to the many investment funds and law firms that populate the area, and there is nothing like Madison Avenue for commuting convenience. (Besides, you never know who you may run into in line at Starbucks.) Like venture capital mecca Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley, business opportunities can be found just about everywhere, including the parking lot or at the kids’ soccer practice.

Back in March of 2010 I wrote about Palo Alto as an IP center. Have Manhattan’s creative, advertising geniuses of the 1950s and 1960s like David Ogilvy evolved into smartphone-fingering IP purveyors?

Not exactly, but the innovative edge in this part of the City clearly has shifted from manipulating analog images to monetizing intangible assets.

Given the Big Apple’s track record for turning forward thinking into successful commerce, Madison Avenue’s IP businesses are poised for growth, even if they prefer not to advertise it.

Image sources: FreidmanArchives and DVDActive.com

BBA has advised some of the businesses mentioned in this post.

About Bruce Berman

IP trend spotter, consultant and author.

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