BlackBerry saw its IP revenues almost double in the second quarter, jumping from $32 million in the first three months of the fiscal year to $56 million for the period ending August 31st (the company accounts on a March to February fiscal year). On a call with analysts BlackBerry CEO John Chen revealed that the company had recognised IP revenues from three licensing deals with Ford, Blue and Timex and added that the business had “a good pipeline of opportunities”.
The latest results come just weeks after this blog broke the news that senior vice president of IP, licensing and standards Mark Kokes, had left the business. Kokes was hired from InterTrust in 2014 to aggressively grow BlackBerry’s IP monetisation programme, and the latest results suggest that he has left the company in decent shape as it looks to generate a return from its portfolio of a little under 40,000 assets.
The details around his departure are so far shrouded in mystery although IAM understands that Kokes has since joined Nantworks, a healthtech business owned by a Los Angeles-based billionaire. Despite the rise in IP revenues his exit was not mentioned on the analyst call or in the earnings release, suggesting that the company does not view it as a material event that needs to be communicated to investors.
What will be interesting to now follow is the degree to which his departure impacts the company’s IP returns. While Kokes was responsible for building a licensing team in-house, several outside observers suggested that a number of more senior executives were closely involved in the commercialisation efforts. Kokes reported into Sandeep Chennakeshu, president of BlackBerry Technology Solutions, while Chen himself is thought to have kept close tabs on the licensing efforts.
It’s not clear yet who might replace Kokes but whoever does take over will be taking charge of what is still a relatively embryonic monetisation programme. So might we be seeing the early days of a licensing force with regular revenues of several hundred million dollars?
Given Blackberry’s status as a one-time handset pioneer with a huge patent portfolio to monetise, obvious comparisons can be made with Nokia. In monetisation terms the Finnish company has a head start of several years and privately some market observers scoff at that kind of comparison suggesting that there is a wide gap in quality between the two businesses’ portfolios.
That message clearly didn’t reach Kokes who was known to be particularly bullish about the monetisation prospects for BlackBerry’s IP assets and told IAM earlier this year that his mandate was simply to, “monetise the BlackBerry portfolio using every means possible”. That saw him strike a number of licensing deals but also sell some assets such as a 2015 disposal to investment firm Centerbridge Partners