April 26, 2017
This week, Uber officially launched their UP3 patent purchasing program. We first saw the announcement on April 11 in Tech Crunch, which led us to do our own analysis of what we think is happening at Uber right now. We thought there were some interesting takeaways. For example, the program is being run by the same person who launched a similar program when he was at Google. From a strategic perspective, this sort of program makes sense for a large, multifaceted company like Google, but for Uber, it’s less clear and we’re curious to see what happens. We also thought it was interesting they have no interest in evidence of use documentation, which is often used to prove the value of IP assets. What we did learn from other patent purchasing programs like this is sellers can sell patents more quickly this way, but if they aren’t in a hurry to sell, they will most likely get a higher price through a broker.
Why it Matters
The feedback we received when our CEO Jon Calvert posted this article to LinkedIn was pretty interesting. One commentator, Dov (Bernie) May co-founder of the Negev Roots Innovation Science Center suggested, “Uber is going to disrupt the patent business.” While Nick White, IP Consultant and Patent Attorney with Tangible IP, commented that the autonomous vehicle angle was in his words, “a bit of a red herring.” Other comments were pretty cynical regarding the secondary patent market. So on one hand, people who are deeply involved in the patent industry think Uber will upend the system and others think the system they are buying into isn’t worth a dime…
In 2012, Instagram competitor, Mobli patented the idea for Geo-photo filters but wasn’t successful in using it for competitive advantage. The technology enables Snap to generate revenue from advertisers using geo-filters. Snap wants to avoid potential future litigation from competitors like Facebook and has purchased the patent from Mobli for a record $7.7M.
Why it Matters
That’s a huge price to pay for a patent, but Snap had to consider their future if Facebook had purchased the patent instead. Also, that’s a huge pay day for Mobli. Snapchat is also under pressure to keep the new features rolling in so that their product remains fresh, as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have rolled out their snapchat rival features.
Today is World IP Day. What better time than now to share our 10-year Anniversary milestone, reflect on how the IP strategy service industry has evolved and comment on where we see the future heading for our business.