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Copyright company filing is a “mini” IPO aimed at monetizing future music royalties

A business designed to acquire and monetize royalty streams “of the world’s biggest artists,” Royalty Flow, went public last week with a “mini” IPO, or registration under Regulation A+ crowdfunding initiative. 

A new type of PIPCO (public IP company), Royalty Flow hopes that under the 2012 JumpStart Our Business Start-up (JOBS) Act, passed by the Obama administration and known as “Regulation A+,” will enable it to raise between $11 million and $50 million. If successful, the capital will allow the company to purchase a portion of the income stream derived from Eminem’s 1999-2013 catalog and pay investors dividends in return.

Depending on how much money is raised, Royalty Flow will buy either 15 percent or 25 percent of an Eminem income stream based on royalties paid to FBT Productions, which often works with the performer.

With the recent upsurge in streaming revenues from services like Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music, some music industry observers believe that royalties generated under copyrights have a bright future. But streaming services have only just begun to pay recording artists and producers, and lucrative licensing deals reminiscent of returns on retail CDs are a long way off for most.  See “Music royalties – a siren song for niche investors seeking higher yield” in the August 23 IP CloseUp.

The Royalty Exchange website cites a Goldman Sachs analyst that paid streaming revenues will grow by 833% by 2030 (see graph above).

Reminiscent of “Bowie” Bonds

The Royalty Flow business model is reminiscent of the “Bowie” Bonds securitization that took place in 1997. In that arrangement Bowie’s company, the copyright holder, did not sell the assets, but a portion of the cash flow they generated over a ten-year term. Bowie did well on the $55 million deal. Investors, depending on when they bought and sold, did not.

“What Bowie sold was the present value of his personal intellectual property (song copyrights) – that is, the future expectation of future royalty income, less a discount,” said an analyst.

Those buying shares in Royalty Flow would have the right to collect dividends based on the performance of the Eminem catalog and any other catalogs acquired over time. The company says it intends to later list directly to the NASDAQ.

“The plan is to give fans and investors a way to share in the income from the royalties through dividends paid by the company,” reports Billboard.

The minimum investment during the IPO is $2,250 for 300 shares (at $7.50 a share). After the equity campaign is over, Royalty Flow “intends to list directly to NASDAQ and give latecomers a chance to invest in Royalty Flow stock through the public exchange.”

Royalty Flow was officially launched on November 27, 2017. The company, a subsidiary of Royalty Exchange, a copyright auction company. For more information about Royalty Flow, go here

For the Regulation A+ S.E.C. filing, go here.

Image source: royaltyflow.com

 

 

 

 

Short-term thinking about intellectual capital weakens the U.S.’ ability to compete

A well-known economist and entrepreneur, whose work has been cited more than 120,000 times as tracked by Google Scholar, says that businesses and managers who fail to properly acknowledge the contribution of intellectual capital, including IP rights like patents and trade secrets, are dangerously short-sighted. 

David Teece, Director of the Tusher Center for the Management of Intellectual Capital, at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, says “We are at a critical junction in the evolution of our society and the economy. If we continue to protect and reward just the production of tangible goods (objects), while short-changing intangibles (ideas, inventions, creative-works, know-how, relationships, etc.), we will be out of step with technological progress and the march of civilization.

“Economies will eventually stutter if the creation of intangibles is compromised through poorly designed and weakly enforced intellectual property rules.”

Brief and Keynote

These remarks were part of a brief he wrote for the Tusher Center, which can be found here. He delivered more detailed remarks as the keynote at the first IP Awareness Summit in Chicago in November. The title of his talk was “IP Rights Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership.” For the complete Intangible Investor column, “Short-changing intangibles – is risky business,” in the January IAM magazine, out this week, go here.

Dr. Teece believes that improving awareness of and attitudes towards intangible assets ought be part of industrial and innovation policy debates. “Nations that rely on creativity,” he says, “must be vigilante in maintaining systems that permit innovation, authorship and creativity to thrive.”

For the outline of Dr. Teece’s talk, go “IP Rights Erosion: A Growing Threat to U.S. Economic Leadership.”

Image source: berkeley.edu; understandingip.org

 

Antitrust Attorney General suing AT&T supports patent monetization

Yesterday, United States Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, filed suit to stop the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger, which previously had been progressing through regulatory approval. 

Almost at the same time, in a recent carefully crafted speech before a business and law audience, he outlined his preference for reliable patents and consistent, free-market enforcement. Putting a patent attorney in charge of antitrust may be the Trump administration’s best idea yet.

Delrahim’s remarks were delivered recently as part of the USC Gould School of Law’s Center for Transnational Law and Business Conference.

“Fresh thinking about the implications of SSOs [standards setting organizations] and the proper role of antitrust law is long overdue,” said Delrahim, who is the first patent attorney to head the Antitrust Division. “Bargaining over new and innovative technologies is a high stakes game, and each side has an incentive to use every means necessary to improve its end of the bargain.  In this game, the competitive market process should win.”

Well-Crafted

The thoughtful speech was welcome relief to IP holders, especially non-practicing entities whose primary business is patent licensing. However, some people thought the timing and intent of the remarks were more difficult to discern.

“Clearly he [Delrahim] is sending a message that the AG’s office, and perhaps the Trump administration, knows the difference between IP exclusivity, which is conducive to innovation and businesses, and anti-competitive behavior,” a significant patent holder told IP CloseUp.

It’s ironic that his comments were made just days before the DOJ’s decision to sue to stop the AT&T-Time Warner merger, or maybe not.

Yesterday the Department of Justice sued to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, citing its anticompetitive nature and ability of the combined company “to drive up the cost of channels like HBO, CNN and TBS to rivals and ultimately to consumers.”

Senate Committee on the Judiciary documents submitted in support of Delrahim’s confirmation, show that he has worked in the White House as an advisor and has had a distinguished private legal career, often supporting acquirers in large transactions.

Delrahim emigrated from Iran with his family in the 1970s when he was ten years old to escape the political strife. After law school, he joined Patton Boggs. In 1998, Delrahim became a counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, working under Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Jon Leibowitz, who was then a Democratic Senate aide and worked with Delrahim, remembered him as being a pragmatist.

His video recorded confirmation hearing, worth looking at. Delrahim’s testimony occurs approximately 52 minutes into the recording.

Not a Vigilante

CNN, which may have to be sold to permit the AT&T-TWC merger to go through, reported that “A long time colleague of Delrahim’s who says he is a liberal told CNNMoney that he can’t imagine that Delrahim ‘would engage in any type of vigilante justice to help the president in the deal…That’s just unfathomable to me.'”

Delrahim IP background and more enlightened approach to patents in the marketplace could go a long way to repairing the legislative and judicial hits that the patent system that has taken over the past six years.

“We don’t have the tools to know what the competitive royalty rate is,” concluded Delrahim in his USC speech, “—we’re not price regulators, after all—and if we inject antitrust law where it does not belong. It can actually subvert the competitive process and do serious harm to American consumers and to innovation itself… It’s time to correct this asymmetry to ensure that there are maximum incentives to innovate, and equally proper incentives to implement.”

For the text of Delrahim’s remarks, go here.

Image source: bostonherald.com; fortune.com

Patents’ early role in creating leading tech businesses eyed

Some information technology companies dubious about strong patents that can be used to restrict their activities or force them to pay licensing fees, appear to have benefitted from securing patents early in their life-cycle.

It’s doubtful whether their early patent success can be similarly reproduced today.

According to a post on the IPfolio blog, a diverse group of IT companies that drew early on patents includes Dropbox, FireEye, Zynga, Square, Facebook, Theranos, SolarCity, GoPro and Apple. 

“[Some] startups remain true to the original vision of the founders,” writes IPfolio. “By analyzing their first patent filings, it’s easy to see which ones have remained committed to plans likely first sketched on a whiteboard in a spare bedroom. In many cases, these ‘seminal patents’ closely describe what the company stands for today.”

“Here are the first patents granted to ten of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. Fledgling startups when they first filed to protect their intellectual property, they’ve since created billion-dollar businesses around the seminal inventions.” For the full story, go here.

Apple: Microcomputer for use with video display (1977)

Decades before Apple expanded into mobile communication, music distribution and timepieces, it was synonymous with digital design. Steve Jobs’ less well-known co-founder Steve Wozniak invented a method for displaying color and high-resolution graphics using a standard cathode ray tube, which this April 1977 filing described. It was Apples’ first patent.

Google: Method for node ranking in a linked database (1998)

Above is Google’s famous PageRank patent, it’s first. Larry Page’s invention valued a webpage based on how many other pages linked to it. Filed in January 1998, the approach provided a significant improvement in the quality of search results, a key factor in Google’s rise as the dominant search engine. The original assignee was Stanford University, which received 1.8 million shares of Google stock in exchange for a long-term license.

Taken Seriously

For most of the ten tech high-fliers noted by IPfolio, strong patent protection helped them to be taken seriously. For others, like Theranos, the patents could not save a flawed business model and questionable leadership.

It is doubtful whether unicorns and other start-ups today can rely on patent protection to build their businesses in the way successful tech companies were able to in the recent past. There is too much uncertainty about what is patentable and what is a valid patent.

 

Image source: IPfolio.com

Financial Times article slams US patent syst for business model bias

An article that appeared last week in the Financial Times calling into question the effectiveness of a U.S.  patent system dangerously weakened by bad legislation and a false narrative about patent “trolls,” has won praise for its accuracy and honesty.

In a rare instance of serious business reporting on intellectual property rights, award-winning journalist, Rana Foroohar, slammed Silicon Valley companies that have endeavored to impede patent licensing and diminish innovation challenges from companies they cannot control.

“Indeed, the only ones that seem not to be complaining about the current system are a handful of the biggest Silicon Valley companies — including Google, Apple, Intel and Cisco.” While they all have their own patents to protect, their business models, which involve products that include hundreds or even thousands of bits of IP, tend to do better when there are fewer patents to deal with.

“But small and mid-sized software and hardware suppliers as well as life sciences companies have very different business models — ones that live or die on the ability to protect a handful of patents, and thus monetise their years of investment. For many of these companies, the shifts in the system that began a decade ago have gone too far.”

Several small and large patent holders told IP CloseUp that the FT deserves praise for finally getting the patent story right, one calling it a “breath of fresh air.”  Many believe that the business press has failed to report accurately about the patent system, and has served to blow the patent “troll” narrative way out of proportion, especially for those outside of the IP industry.

FT allows subscriber access to the Foroohar article, Big Tech vs Big Pharma: the battle over US patent protection,” here. [Oddly, the title does not reflect the depth of the piece. Perhaps a more explicit one may have been too much for some readers or editors?]

For a free version of the article that ran on CNBC, go here.

Tech Titans

Much of Ms. Forhooar’s recent reporting in the FT has dealt with the rise of what she calls tech titans, many of which are attempting to maintain their dominance by keeping the patent playing field uneven and potential competitors at bay.

She has served as correspondent and reporter for CNN and Time, and spent 13 years at Newsweek, as an economic and foreign affairs editor and a foreign correspondent covering Europe and the Middle East. For a list of her recent articles, go here.

Forhooar has won many awards for her reporting and has received several journalism fellowships. She is a life-member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has written a book, Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business.

“Big Tech vs. Pharma” sets a sorely needed benchmark for the business press for reporting accurately on the intellectual property. Covering the impact that changes in the patent system have wrought, and who are the real beneficiaries, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Image source: twitter.com; lovespace.co.uk

Experts at IPAS 2017 will explore growing disregard for IP rights

At a time when the value of IP rights under attack by businesses, individuals and the courts, the first IP Awareness Summit will examine the reasons and possible responses.

The Intellectual Property Awareness Summit, which will take place in Chicago on November 6, is the first conference to address the role of IP understanding – and the lack of it – in innovation, ideas and value creation.

IPAS 2017 (subtitle: Enhancing value through understanding) will examine what are acceptable behaviors on the part of IP holders and users, and consider the rapid rise in Internet IP theft and “efficient” patent infringement, as well as distinguish between legitimate and abusive licensing.

IPAS 2017 is being held by the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) an independent non-profit, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.

IP owners – including patent, copyright and trademark holders – organizations, executives, investors and inventors from several countries will be attending. For information about the program, panelists and partners, go here

For a post about the need for broader and better non-legal IP education on the IAM blog written by Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel of IBM and a CIPU board member, go here.

For more information about the Center for IP Understanding, started in 2017, go here.

Conference attendance is by invitation. Persons who would like to request an invitation can write to registration@understandingip.org.

Image source: IPAS2017

Perception of patents & other IP rights is being taken more seriously

Do IP users – both businesses and individuals – view rights like patents and copyrights as potential assets that benefit commerce and society? Or, do they see them as nuisances to be ignored and, in some cases, disdained?

How IP rights are perceived, by whom, and why its starting to receive the critical attention it deserves.

Perception, which is known to affect value in all asset classes, is on the rise. Stakeholders are realizing that even sophisticated audiences are clueless about what IP rights generate, and for whom and that the growing hostility towards them has profound implications.

In the October IAM (out today), The Intangible Investor explores, “The premium on perception,” which highlights recent studies on IP perception. IAM readers can find a copy here.

Recent Studies

Several recent studies that look at how various audiences regard IP rights have set the stage for further research and analysis. They include:

European Citizens and Intellectual Property: Perception, Awareness and Behavior, a research report from the EUIPO, surveyed 26,000 EU citizens in 2013 and then again in a 2016 follow-up, published this year. Its findings show that while 97% of Europeans regard IP rights favorably, 41% of youths 15-24 believe that it is sometimes ok to buy counterfeits and many say they do, especially when cost is an issue.

Gregory N. Mandel, Dean of the Temple University Law School, questions the accuracy with which audiences see the IP system. In two seminal papers, he considers whether a system that is widely misunderstood can be effective. Professor Mandel and his team conducted research experiments with some 1,700 subjects. He has been researching IP and perception for over a decade with some startling results. The Public Perception of Intellectual Property was published in 2015, and What is IP for? Experiments in Lay and Expert Perceptions was this year.

The IP Strategy Report -2Q 2017 from Aistemos, and IP consultancy, edited by Professor Jeremy Phillips, provides additional useful data points regarding IP and perception. In a report published earlier this year that examined how patent disputes are covered by the technology, business and general media, the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding (CIPU) found that technology media are more subjective than other business or general press when it comes to reporting about patent infringement. The report, Patterns in Media Coverage of Patent Disputes, examined 127 articles published in 2016.

 Refusal to recognize the integrity of IP rights is growing. Whether or not this is simply a failure to communicate or a function of self-interest is unclear.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence about U.S. need for IP education was co-written by a Canadian researcher, Dan Breznitz.  What the US should be doing to protect Intellectual Property? appeared in the Harvard Business Review.

Failure to Communicate?

For some audiences, refusal to recognize the integrity of IP rights is growing. Whether or not this is simply a failure to communicate or a function of self-interest is unclear. What is clear is the need to quantify changes in attitude, what motivates them and their impact.

IP professionals have done an exceedingly poor job of explaining patents and other rights, to stakeholders, including their own boards of directors and investors. Perhaps they are fearful of setting the stage for future accountability, perhaps they think no one will care?

Recent attempts to track and understand attitudes toward IP are an important step in the right direction. More work needs to be done. An IP system which the participants do not understand or whose values they do not respect is no IP system at all.

Image source: euipo

 

 

Bitcoin prices dive: 58 bitcoin facts that will amuse and enlighten

It has been a decade since the appearance of bitcoin, the alternative or cryptocurrency based on a blockchain, a “decentralized” network or shared ledger that facilitates transparency. 

The currency’s pricing gyrations have been nothing short of a roller coaster ride, with bitcoins trading in 2017 as low as $750 and as high as $5,000.

Bitcoin is down from its September 2 high of $5,000 “on speculation,” reports Coindesk, “that the Chinese government is launching a crackdown on [bitcoin] exchanges.” Some others are blaming JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s scathing attack on bitcoin for the meltdown in the prices seen on September 13.

Business Insider says that as of last September 7 bitcoin is up 355% for 2017 (for the current price, go here).  More recently, it has hit a three-week low, and some believe it appears to be hurtling toward correction at around $3,000.

Hyped & Misunderstood

“No term at present is more hyped or misunderstood than blockchain,” reports FORTUNE. “A blockchain is a kind of ledger, a table that businesses use to track credits and debits… [It is] a definitive record of who owns what, when.“tp

“Properly applied, a blockchain can help assure data integrity, maintain auditable records, and even, in its latest iterations, render financial contracts into programmable software… Even if participants don’t trust one another, they can rely on the shared ledger through the transaction dance of their software.”

Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and MasterCard are among the most frequent recipients of blockchain patents. As reported in IP CloseUp, patent publications and grants are on the rise.

But despite price volatility, or perhaps because of it, bitcoin continues to attract converts. Among those who accept transactions with them are Microsoft, PayPal, Fortune magazine, Intuit, Amazon, Home Depot, Target and more than 100 companies.

Bitcoin is not blockchain, but the currency made possible by a blockchain platform or “shared ledger that underlies it. This is said to allow for transparency without any one party controlling clearing or profiting unfairly.

Bitcoin = Blockchain 1.0

Bitcoin is one manifestation of the blockchain ecosystem. It is an example of what a blockchain can do, but it is just the beginning. Blockchain 1.0, if you will. Industries as diverse as energy, healthcare and law are already using variations on blockchain technology.

The attraction of bitcoin is many-fold. Most important, it is highly private if not totally anonymous and eliminates the cost of middle-man and confusion from lack of transparency. 16.4 million bitcoins have been minted; after 21 million no new coins will be created. Once all coins have been mined value from the system, it has been said, will be derived from transaction fees (kind of like shares of stock).

For a bitcoin primer go here.

For those of you interested in the history of the bitcoin and early blockchain era, the following infographic – “10 Years of the World with Bitcoin – 58 Insane Facts” – from BitcoinPlay will enlighten as well as amuse. Source urls can be found at the bottom of the image.

 

Image source: bitcoinplay.net; bitcoin.com

 

London IP Summit will feature transaction leaders; Washington patent policy event, a US Senator

Two timely IP conferences, one in London focusing on patent deals, and the other in Washington, looking at patent policy issues, will take place in this fall. 

This year’s London IP Summit will be held at the London Stock Exchange on October 16,and feature several of the leading figures in patent licensing and transactions.

So far, they include Stephen Pattison, ARM; Kasim Alfalahi, Avanci; Gustav Brismark, Ericsson; Roberto Dini, Sisvel; Tim Frain, Nokia; and Manny Schecter, IBM.

“The London IP Summit is an industry leading event dedicated to bringing together IP owners, experts and investors to address key challenges and operational issues faced by companies and IP professionals today,” reports LIPS.

“Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed, LPS-London IP Summit is the only IP event organised under the Chatham House Rule*, offering safe and secure environment to speakers and to attendees in order to encourage openness and sharing of information. Participation at the event is by invitation only

 * When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

For the full program or to register go here.

*****

In Washington, DC on November 14, IAM is presenting the 3rd annual Patent Law and Policy conference, “Courts, Congress and the Monetization Landscape,” at the Reagan International Trade Center, across the street from the White House. The event will provide the political background needed to put IP into better context amidst changes.


Coverage includes the latest Supreme Court decisions and the machinations in Congress, to the policies of the Trump administration, the event provides delegates with timely and relevant insights from panelists representing a broad cross-section of the patent community.

Senator Chis Coons (D-Delaware) will be a speaker, as will interim USPTO Director Joseph Matal.  Laurie Self of Qualcomm, a passionate defender of the right to license patents, also will present.

For the Patent Law and Policy program or to register, go here.

Register by October 6 using code ONLINEEB to receive $100 off the standard rate. (CLE credit is available.)

 

Image source: 10times.com; qualitytalks.com

Music royalties – a siren song for niche investors seeking higher yield

A small but growing number of investors are buying the rights to musician’s future earnings, hoping to beat the fixed income returns and other markets.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “Music Royalties Strike a Chord, these fixed income investors are lured by future returns of 8%-12% annually, when junk bonds are still hovering around 6%.

Private equity funds have raise or begun to raise $1 billion since 2013 when this sector appeared to be an alternative to low yields on fixed income.

There are a several types of royalties that can be sold, either for a specified period of time or until they expire. (For works created on or after January 1, 1978, it is life plus 70 years or 95 or 120 years, depending on the nature of authorship.)

David Bowie infamously sold his future copyright earnings for $55 million (“Bowie” Bonds), only to have new technology like Napster devalue them. [See, “The Bonds that Fell to Earth,” in the January 15, 2016 IP CloseUp.) The financing did wonders for Bowie balance sheet, although not all investors made out so well.

High Yield

Bowie Bonds paid 7.9% for ten years, at which time, I believe, they reverted back to the mercurial artist. He never lost ownership of all of his songs; he merely licensed the future earnings to some of them for a period of time.

Songs can also earn money when they are performed live, played in a restaurant or film, or streamed through a service like Spotify. They still do not make money from radio airplay (a legacy from old tech, when it was about selling records). Songwriters, music publishers, artists and labels own various rights, including performance rights.

WSJ reports that in the 2Q Denver-based website Royalty Exchange held music rights auctions valued at $2.5M, more than double the total from the 4Q 2016.  Royalty Exchange publishes a guide to music royalties, here.  It is a transaction site, so it is best to speak to a lawyer or experienced IP broker before buying.

Risk to music royalty streams includes timing, trends and technological threats. A song that generates a steady stream of income today is not necessarily going to in five or fifteen years. On the other hand, a small handful could actually generate more revenue than expected. Receivables, or royalty stream financing, takes place in many industries, including energy, real estate and sports.

Streaming Rises

The renewed interest in music royalties may due in part to increased royalty payments by services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple, which, similar to YouTube, have been notoriously reluctant to pay creatives fairly for content. But increases have been negligible for most performers and song writers, and top recording artists with leverage tend to cut their own distribution deals.

With disdain for IP rights on the rise, it is somewhat encouraging that niche investors still believe in the integrity of copyrights and the reliability of their income stream. For them to succeed they will need cooperation from streaming services, as well as songwriters and performers.

Image source: myradio360.com; entertainment.howstuffworks.com 

 

Tech pioneer Nolan Bushnell to keynote IPO annual meeting in SF

This year’s Intellectual Property Owners Association annual meeting will feature a presentation by the founder of Atari Computer and Chuck E Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater, Nolan Bushnell.

Another keynote will be presented by John Cabeca, Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO. More than forty service providers, law firms and IP holders will be exhibiting at the three-day even from September 17-19 at San Francisco’s Marriott Marquis.

Mr. Bushnell, an American electrical engineer and businessman, has started more than 20 companies and is a video game pioneer.

He established Atari, Inc. and the Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre chain. Mr. Bushnell has been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame and the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame, received the Nation’s Restaurant News “Innovator of the Year” award, and was named one of Newsweeks “50 Men Who Changed America.”

2017 IPO meeting highlights include:

  • Monday Patent General Session: Alice and the 101 Wonderland

The law on § 101 following the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal Alice ruling has been a murky morass to navigate.

With district court, PTAB, and Federal Circuit decisions that are all over the map, and calls for the abolishment of § 101, IPO recently introduced a legislative proposal to address the lack of predictability in § 101.

Panelists will discuss these issues, whether the current state of § 101 is promoting or inhibiting innovation, and what if anything should be done going forward.

  • Two Corporate Panels at 11am on Monday
  1. Patent Session: In-House Best Practices: Strategies for Adapting to a Rapidly Changing Environment
  2. Strategic Partnering with In-House Trademark Counsel
    ___________

For the full program, go here. To register, here.

Image source: ipo.org

 

“Turn and face the strange” – Patent values fall to earth; PIPCOs, too

Changes, or should we say “ch-ch-changes,” channeling David Bowie, who reinvented himself repeatedly, have decimated the performance of most publicly held patent licensing companies.

Public IP licensing companies (PIPCOs) are changing their names and restructuring in an attempt to reframe themselves. The move appears part of an effort to shed the past, given that many of these businesses have significantly under-performed the S&P 500 Index.

With patent values at historic lows, a fresh perspective is welcome. But can PIPCOs turn the corner and successfully adapt to changing times (and valuations) in the patent space? Only some are likely to succeed.

A fuller discussion of public IP companies, “PIPCOs adapt to ch-changing times,” can be found in my “Intangible Investor” column in the September IAM magazine, out today. Subscribers can find the piece here. It includes companies that have changed their name or issued reverse splits of their stock. or otherwise reinvented themselves as operating companies with product sales.

A Closer Look

A closer look at the IP CloseUp 30 reveals several significant developments. One trend which financial analysts tend to question is rebranding; another is a reverse split, where a $0.50 stock can suddenly become a $4 one when investors are provided with fewer shares at a higher price.

To casual observers, it can appear that performance has taken off, when in fact the weak stock price is merely being obscured by a diminished public float. Many PIPCOs were formed by a merging a private enterprise into a public shell, which while not disreputable, often comes with baggage.

While one can appreciate different patent strategies – the need to monetize good assets through different business models – the perils of public ownership are ill-suited for the majority of companies whose primary focus is licensing.

Still, there are public and private patent licensing company successes, including Finjan, which has successfully fended off multiple IPRs, Network-1, inventor-owned PMC (Personalized Media Communications), which continues to license, and colleges like Northwestern and NYU, which have scored big on pharmaceutical licensing.  

Stanford University’s patent licensing take in shares of Google are said to be worth more than $300 million.

Image source: wikipedia.org

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