Tag Archives: acquisitions

Rich values for IP services providers defy investor expectations

Prices for companies that support and sell IP services and analytical software remain surprisingly strong, even as patent licensing and sales continue to decline.

Their success appears to be fueled by the very problems facing patents: lower values and lack of certainty.

IP tools providers are the proverbial sellers of picks and shovels; the “miners” take the primary risk. Most are satisfied with the steady cash flow, while their clients make the big bets in R&D and litigation. Uncertainty makes investing even more dangerous and the information premium more valuable.

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For the full IP services deal story, “Defying the monestisation market” in the September IAM magazinego here. In this issue the Intangible Investor explores recent IP service firms transactions and their prices.
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Examples of IP services successes include CPA Global’s 2017 acquisition by private equity firm Leonard Green & Partner’s for 2.4 billion pounds ($3.1B USD). Cinven had acquired the firm in 2012 from Intermediate Capital Group for around £950 million ($1.3 billion), backed
by $555 million of debt financing.

In 2015, CPA Global – with approximately $12 million in revenues and no profit – acquired Innography for an undisclosed amount. An industry-insider told IP CloseUp it was likely between $80 and $90 million, or about seven times revenue. Innography, with a strong reputation, had raised $14 million in venture capital.

AI Driven

Thomson Reuters sold its IP and Science business in 2016 to Onex and Baring and Private Equity Asia for $3.55 billion. The company is now Clarivate Analytics.

Among the newer and more interesting entries in the IP services space is ClearAccessIP, a Palo Alto, CA-based firm “that indexes patents, looks for vulnerabilities in a corporation’s patent strategy, and finds opportunities in a patent collection for further value.”

Founded by Nicole Shanahan, a young patent attorney who served as a researcher for IP scholar Colleen Chien at Santa Clara University College of Law. Professor Chien is a member of the Clear Access IP Advisory Board, along with former AIPLA president Wayne Sobon.

“I am essentially trying to build and democratize a marketplace platform because not all patent holders and sellers can afford the large transaction firms,” she says. “I’m also solving a very old problem and putting docket management in the cloud.”

An extensive interview with Shanahan appears in Software Engineering Daily. The audio can be found here; the written transcript, here.

Ms. Shanahan, it seems fair to inform readers, has been living with Sergey Brin, founder of Google and President of its parent company, Alphabet, Inc., which, historically, has been dubious about strong patents.

New Wave

IP services and software providers, especially those using the latest algorithms, may represent a new wave for beleaguered IP holders and their law firms seeking to manage patent risk. The computing strength and analytics capability they offer may be just what some IP holders and margin-conscious law firms need to compete, or these companies may simply be repackaging the outsourcing mantra for the AI age.

These relationship-driven, technology-focused service providers are likely to grow in value as global patent applications and portfolios increase and uncertainty lingers. An improved outlook for patent licensing will make them even more attractive.

Image source: softwareengineeringdaily.com; clarivate.com; cpaglobal.com 

RPX buyout rumors set share price at a 27% premium, or $800M

Shares of RPX (RPXC) opened today at $13.88, up 2.81%, after rising 5.6% last Wednesday on rumors from two sources that the defensive patent aggregator is a takeover target.

Richard Lloyd of the IAM blog broke the story on December 12, saying the a private group had offered $16.25 per share for the company, or $800 million, a 27% premium.

But some observers doubt whether RPX can fetch that high of a premium. Don Lonkevetch writing in this morning’s Patent Investor said:

“That’s because San Francisco-based RPX’s business has been hurt by its own past success in combatting non-practicing entities and the overall decline in patent litigation since the American Invents Act of 2011 made it cheaper and easier for companies to invalidate patents…

“As a result, big tech companies who have been among RPX’s biggest clients have grown increasingly reluctant to rely on RPX to put together syndicates to keep patents out of the hands of NPEs.”

The Patent Investor cites an anonymous source familiar with RPX (short for Rational Patent Exchange) who suggests  the company is worth about $12 per share.

Below IPO Price

RPX is already up about 24% this year, but is still trading well below its 2011 IPO price of $19 per share. Founding CEO John Amster left the company earlier this year after his suggestion to take the company private at $11 per share were nixed.

Baird analyst Jeffrey Meuler reiterated his Outperform rating last week and $15 price target on RPX Corp.

Earlier in the year, on March 8, CNA Finance reported that “Early this morning, stories started breaking that RPX Corp may soon be acquired. In fact, according to some of the reports, the company has received several offers from private equity companies to take it out of the public sector.”

On that day RPX shares rose 15%. Thus far, the RPX board has not commented.

If RPX were to be acquired at a significant premium to its current $668 million market capitalization, it would be a boost of confidence not only for the company’s shares and public IP companies (PIPCOs), but for patent holders in general. It could be a signal that patent values are headed higher.

On Thursday, USPTO Director Nominee Andrei Iancu was unanimously approved by Senate Judiciary Committee, signaling a further distance from the Michelle Lee-led USPTO that saw a dramatic rise in invalidations before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

Image source: rpxcorp.com; laborcosting.com

 


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