Tag Archives: IP CloseUp 50

Taking PIPCOs private – rethinking public IP (patent licensing) companies

The shares of most publicly traded companies that rely primarily on patent licensing, litigation settlements or damages awards for revenue have fared poorly compared to key market indexes, like the S&P 500. 

Whether or the not the market is valuing these companies’ shares and their complex assets fairly is less the issue than the viability of patent licensing as a public company business model. Remember, PIPCOs are not synonymous with patent licensing — a PIPCO (public intellectual property company), a term this reporter coined in 2013, can be brand-based, content-focused or not even license its IP rights.

PIPCOs are nothing more than IP-centric companies that trade publicly and that investors need to appreciate for their intangible assets.

PIPCOs, as we know them, are in need of a reboot – call it PICPO 2.0.  In the March-April IAM magazine the Intangible Investor looks at “IP Investing Today – What you need to know.”

IP CloseUp recently updated and expanded the IP CloseUp 30 to the IP CloseUp 50, a more diverse range of IP-centric companies. The best-of-the-best performing patent licensing companies, typically non-practicing entities, are still included, but so are brands like Nike and content providers like News Corporation and tech stalwarts like Apple.

Check out the IP CloseUp 50 here. Bookmark it if you want a real-time snap-shot of these IP players on your phone or computer.

Changing Perspective

When inventors and NPEs were grabbing headlines with damages awards – some in the hundreds of millions of dollars – it was easy for some investors to believe patent infringement would translate into PIPCO performance. It was not so easy.

Settle a dispute or close a deal and the impact could be readily discerned on small company’s balance sheet and in its share price. If a company’s market capitalization was under $100M dollars the results would be magnified. Twists and turns in the course of litigation were trading opportunities, so thought many investors.

Larger PIPCOs Have Fared Better (see 2014 Graph Below)

For large IP-rich businesses – those with patent portfolios like pharmaceutical and tech companies, brands and content providers – it is more difficult to measure the impact of their IP rights and specific IP-related transactions on performance and shareholder value. Their complexity made them less interesting to short-term IP investors until the results were observed over time.

RPX Turnaround

Dan McCurdy, RPX’s current president, told IAM recently about the benefits that de-listing the company’s shares had brought.

“We have done more transactions than in any other six months in the company’s history,” McCurdy said. “We have syndicated more dollars than in any other six-month period; and we have concluded approximately 40 transactions across all eight of our market sectors.” The momentum said the former ThinkFire CEO and AST Chairman, was the result of the increased focus and flexibility that being a private company had allowed.

“There is a level of creativity that has been unleashed thanks to our new status,” he concluded.

Some six years ago, in the patent licensing company heyday, RPX’s share price was over $40, after going public in 2011 at $19 per share, and its market cap was around $1 billion.

Time and Money

Finjan is among the more successful PIPCOs, with products in the cybersecurity. The Silicon Valley company’s President Phil Hartstein said at a conference that it was considering going private.

He explained that “despite our repeated success at the PTAB, several valuable settlements and licenses over the past five years, and the growth of our operating business, our stock price has remained essentially unchanged in what had been a bull market for technology.”

With approximately half of Hartstein’s time consumed with shareholders and public ownership, he says, it may be time to reassess priorities.

Companies like Marathon, CopyTele/ITUS, Inventergy, Sepheris, DSS, Single Touch, CopyTele (ITUS), MGT Capital and Prism Technologies Group have either engaged in reverse-splits, merged or been de-listed. Several, like Tessera (Xperi) and Quarterhill (WiLAN) have changed their name and are hanging tough.

Some of the larger players, such as InterDigital and Universal Display Corporation have performed reasonably well in what until recently had been a bull market. It remains to be seen how they will perform in a less kindly environment, but their size and success can help them surmount obstacles the smaller players cannot.

Image source: gilmartinir.com; lake street capital

Expanded ‘IP CloseUp 30’ stock index features four new categories

Publicly traded patent licensing companies have significantly under-performed market indexes. Only a few of the original listed stocks remain. 

The IP CloseUp 30, a feature of this blog first published in 2013, was designed to provide IP investors a real-time snapshot of public patent licensing company performance and news.

Loss of patent certainty and value have made licensing less interesting to current equity investors. For that reason, the IP CloseUp 30 is evolving. It will be known as the IP CloseUp 50, and include several new categories of publicly traded, IP-focused businesses, including those that engage in brand and content licensing and defensive strategies.

The IP CloseUp 30 index is build on a Yahoo! Finance screen of earnings and other financial information —  stock price and market capitalization, as well as real-time news developments. It gives IP investors a efficient way to track relative performance of selected companies. For those observers more dubious about the sector, but who are interested in keeping tabs on certain patent holders, it provides a method of tracking potential threats.

Evolving Universe

When I coined the acronym, PIPCO, six years ago, it referred to an expanding sector of public companies whose primary source of revenue was patent licensing and, by default, litigation. At the time patent values and damages were much higher and many respectable non-practicing entities (NPEs) held promise. Yet to be felt were the full impact of the America Invents Act, passed in 2012, and the effects of several major court decisions affecting injunctive relief and patent eligibility.

Leading Brands Category

The IP CloseUp 50 is an alternative method for investors to track the influence if not impact of intellectual property. It introduces a larger context for considering IP performance. Patent monetization remains a viable business model for some owners, but perhaps for most businesses, less so as a public one with the pressure to provide investors with quarterly results.

The IPCU 50 is far from definitive and will require that companies be added and removed as market and IP conditions warrant. PIPCOs were never intended to be just about patent licensing. When damages awards for mobile telephony (Motorola, Nortel, et al.) and other technologies commanded hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars, it was only natural for licensing companies to become a source or investor fascination. But even at their most active these PIPCOs rarely generated much daily volume or market capitalization.

Enter PIPCO 2.0

If investors have learned one thing over the past decade about public IP companies it is that they are not synonymous with patent licensing. It is true that performance measures like licensing, settlements and public awards are easier to follow than return on risk mitigation or brand equity. Licensing and litigation are simply more graphic, especially if big tech companies are paying out.

Think of the IPCU 50 as IP CloseUp 2.0. It represents the next iteration of IP investment perspective – companies better equipped to adapt and survive because of their nature of their IP assets and their size. It includes patent, trademark and content-focused operating businesses where licensing may play a role in performance. The index will still consider leading patent licensing companies, but scale back the number. (For now, the index will not consider trade secrets directly.)

To be sure, the IPCU 50 is a work in progress, destined to be refined, but, nonetheless, provocative and worthy of periodic scrutiny.

The new IP CloseUp 50 categories:

  • Patents – Technology
  • Patents – Pharmaceuticals
  • Trademarks – Leading Brands
  • Media & Content Owners (Copyright)
  • Primarily Patent Licensing

Fuller Grasp

Using IP rights to mitigate risk and maintain market share is not new. Nor is brand or content licensing. In principle, using IP rights defensively does not necessarily diminish their significance. It is true that specific tech patents typically mean more to small businesses and individuals than to established players who can rely on other resources like brand equity and their ability to raise capital, and are unlikely to enforce infringed patents. A fuller grasp of what different types of IP mean to various businesses can quickly turn a seller into a buyer (and vice versa).

With some 85% or more of S&P 500 company value tied up in intangibles assets such as IP rights, shareholders need to be better informed about the use of and return on IP (call it, ROIP) and their role in performance. Questions investors should be asking, even if senior management and equity analysts are reluctant to:

  • Which are the most IP-rich businesses?
  • What rights do they own?
  • How are they being used?
  • What is the relationship of their IP to performance and shareholder value?

 

Work in Progress

To be meaningful the IP CloseUp 50 must change to reflect IP value and investor need. The businesses were initially selected by an informal panel of experts. We will do our best to accommodate requests to add or delete companies. The index is designed to render performance of IP-rich companies somewhat more transparent and easier to follow.

The IP CloseUp 50 looks at top public IP holders primarily by:

 

  • Size, type and quality of IP portfolio and assets
  • Enterprise market value (typically >$500M)
  • Innovation reputation

For further explanation of the five sections and criteria for inclusion, visit the IP CloseUp 50 landing page, here. Consider bookmarking it or placing it on your home screen or desktop.

 

Image source: yahoo! finance; ipcloseup.com


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