RPX has acquired a tranche of patent assets from the Intellectual Ventures Invention Science Fund in what is the first acquisition deal between the firms. So far two sets of rights have shown up on USPTO assignment database — one for 35 granted patents and applications and another for 22 — and a spokesperson for RPX confirmed that 66 assets had changed hands in total.
IV has been in patent-selling mode for some time now. As this blog reported last year, it has ramped up its divestment rate as it has looked to monetise its huge portfolio which it has at times struggled to assert against potential licensees. By far the largest disposal it has done so far is the sale of around 4,000 former Kodak patents which it assigned early last year to Dominion Harbor. It has also made a number of much smaller disposals to Dominion and others with most of the assets heralding from one of IV’s three patent acquisition funds.
Sales by the Invention Science Fund, whose patents are typically developed in-house, have been rarer - although it did dispose of 49 in 2016 to an entity called Location Based Services. That firm appears to be headed by Leigh Rothschild an inventor with links to IV who has become a very active asserter of late — according to RPX’s 2017 patent review he was the second most active NPE in litigation last year. Many of the assets that IV has sold have ended up being litigated by their new owners.
Given the services that RPX supplies to its clients, an imminent litigation campaign may well have been behind these recent deals. It’s hard to believe that the defensive aggregator would have made such a purchase if it did not see a potential risk given that it would not be buying with a view to assertion itself. According to the USPTO database, two parts of the deal were recorded on 29th December, which suggests that someone involved might have been keen to close before year end in order to hit an annual or quarterly target.
RPX has done plenty of deals with NPEs such as Acacia and WiLAN in the past, but hasn’t bought any assets from IV. The pair did work together on the $525 million acquisition of the Kodak portfolio in 2012 which saw IV and a group of 12 licensees including Apple, Google and Samsung stump up much of the cash for the deal. Most of those patents are now held by Dominion Harbor and as more former IV assets end up in the courts we may see more acquisitions by RPX as it looks to mitigate patent risk for its clients.