Tag Archives: Alphabet

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 

Samsung is the leading US patent holder, 24,000 ahead of IBM

Of the top eleven active US patent holders, only four are American companies.

But who gets the best return on their innovation rights is less clear. 

It is no surprise that many foreign companies are significant US patent holders. The leader in active US patents, Samsung, with 63,434, is now more than 24,000 issued invention rights ahead of the American leader, IBM, with 39,436. But US patentees are learning that they do not all need to be top banana to succeed.

What this tells us is that for some companies – especially foreign ones – the quantity of US patents still counts, even if quality appears to be somewhat of a moving target. And besides, big technology companies seldom put their patents to the test. US-Patents

“Depending on the stage of a corporation’s development, intellectual property may be a primary value driver,” according to an article, “The largest US patent portfolios are shrinking,” by Michael Chernoff of MDB Capital in the May IAM magazine.

“This list provides insight as to whether a company’s portfolio has been growing and the impact that those assets appear to be having within their technology verticals.”

Big and Growing

Of the top 100 holders, Alphabet (Google) had one of the highest three-year compound annual (patent) growth rates (CAGR), 16%. They were outdone only by Apple, 19%, Ford, 19% and Taiwan Semiconductor at 22%. Huawei’s CAGR was a 26%, but on a lower base.

Alphabet is #12 and Apple #26 on the top 100 active US patentees list. Microsoft is now four, displacing Panasonic.

Seven entities moved up the ladder and made it onto the US Patent 100 list during the last year: Avago Technologies (36), Kyocera (81), Merck (84), Huawei (86) Caterpillar (97), EMC Corp (98) and Halliburton (100). While most of these new entrants won their place as a result of sustained IP development, some are due to significant acquisitions, as noted in Chernoff’s article. (I understand that Google also, has been an active acquirer.)

Getting vs. Having 

While IBM has received the most patents granted by the USPTO every year for the past twenty years, or so, it does not have the most active US patents. Samsung does, and Canon has inched ahead of IBM.

2015-Patents-Top-Ten-IBM

This is one area where lack of leadership can be strength. IBM allows many patents to lapse once it knows that rivals will not secure them or they are not likely to provide much value. The company also generates many defensive publications that prevent others from securing patents on inventions it may wish to use or build trade secrets (consulting “know-how”) around.

Because IBM is more selective and may have a greater number of quality assets than some of its foreign rivals, the company’s patent portfolio is likely more relevant for out and cross-licensing, and occasional sales, which in past years it has engaged in with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google. Fewer active US patents also means lower maintenance costs.

Image source: http://www.diyphotography.net; www.thenextsiliconvalley.com


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