Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo together comprise a leading center for valuable patents and IP expertise.
To most people Ontario conjures an image of ice hockey and maple leaves, not intangible assets. But the province bordering the U.S. on the north is among the most abundant areas globally for invention rights, strategists and investors.
Among the notable patent businesses in Ontario are UBM Tech Insights outside of Ottawa, an information services and consulting firm for technology companies that wish to leverage their IP assets. Chipworks, also in the Ottawa area, specializes in reverse engineering products like computer chips to identify infringement and difficult to identify prior art.
Another Ottawa company, MOSAID Technologies Inc., is a leading intellectual property management company. MOSAID, with 5,400 patents, monetizes IP in the areas of semiconductors and communications, and develops semiconductor memory technology. MOSAID was taken private in 2011 for $590 million by Sterling Partners, a U.S. private equity firm. Like UBM, and Chipworks, MOSAID has offices worldwide.
WiLAN (NASD: WILN) is an Ottawa-based, publicly traded IP licensing business. In 2011, it failed in an attempt at a hostile bid to acquire MOSAID. Both MOSAID and WiLAN (3,000 plus patents) are built on a tradition of R&D, and sell or have sold products, file patent applications, and acquire them from others.
Waterloo-based Research in Motion which makes the Blackberry, once the leading smart phone in the world. Research in Motion (NASD: RIMM), has an extraordinary portfolio of some 3,600 patents said to be worth over a billion dollars.
Nortel, based in outside of Toronto in the western part of the province, in Mississauga, Ontario, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. In 2011 it sold 6,000 of its patents for $4.5 billion to the Rockstar Consortium, comprised of Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Ericsson, EMC and Sony.
Rockstar, located in Ottawa, is run by John Veschi, former Chief IP Officer of Nortel, and is actively licensing its lucrative portfolio. Recently Apple bought 1,024 patents from it.
In a case that made international headlines Toronto-based i4i, Inc., a leader in the design and development of collaborative, XML-based content solutions and technologies, won a patent infringement decision against Microsoft for damages in excess of $300 million. It was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rarely hears appeals of patent disputes, and affirmed 8 to 0.
Also Toronto-based, Northwater Capital (Northwater Patent Funding or NW IP Fund), helped to finance the i4i dispute against Microsoft. Northwater is a private investment company with offices in Toronto and Chicago. Northwater invests proprietary and client capital in intellectual property based investments, green energy endeavors and proprietary trading.
Canadians active in U.S. IP activities include Terry Dalzell (Quinn Pacific), Kent Richardson (former head of IP for Rambus), Kevin Rivette, formerly of IBM and Boston Consulting and Boyd Lemna, Senior Vice President of Licensing at Personalized Media Communications. Peter Misek at Jefferies & Company (and prior to that JP Morgan), one of the leading equity analysts in IT and storage, is from Toronto. (Apologies to the many people not mentioned.)
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What’s up with Canada? At one time the cheap Canadian dollar was attractive to U.S. businesses that required expertise-intensive reverse engineering, such as patent defendants and some plaintiffs. With the Canadian and U.S. dollars now worth about the same, there is still good reason to rely on Canadian IP talent.
Canadians appear to be less conflicted than their U.S. neighbors about monetizing intangibles, their own and others’, and they have many with the right combination of technical, legal and business experience to do so — a hat trick if there every was one.
Illustration source: youthsareawesome.com