IP Recap #46

March 14, 2018


Blackberry Hopes New Avenue of Revenue Generation will be Fruitful

Blackberry sends a message about messages and it’s not going unread

The Story

Blackberry announced in 2016 that they would be looking to license their brand as they moved away from device manufacturing. This was something of a revelation, as it meant that the company sees their software and brand as the main value of the business. There was speculation at the time that Blackberry might go on to become an NPE given their patent portfolio’s alignment with the most litigated technologies. Since then, they’ve filed cases against Avaya, BLU, Nokia, and the latest case which has a very high profile in the media, against Facebook. They have sued Facebook for infringing their patent covering numbers of unread messages being added to the UI. The case claims the patent reads on Facebook’s own platform, as well as WhatsApp and Instagram, which they also own.

Why it Matters

Facebook is no stranger to patent litigation, so you can imagine this case will go on for a long time, while other social media app providers watch closely. Two of the key differentiators for Blackberry’s devices were their emails, and their proprietary messaging platform. This likely means they have a lot of IP in this space, some of which could be infringed by current platforms. If this patent survives the usual validity challenges which all software patents must face in the post-Alice world, then other social media/messaging companies will likely need to tread very carefully.

InterDigital Starts 2018 with Flying Colours

Not a bad deal for Technicolor


The Story

Fresh off the back of a bumper finish to 2017 courtesy of their deal with LG, InterDigital has more than doubled their portfolio courtesy of their acquisition of Technicolor’s licensing business. This was acquired as a two-part deal, so Technicolor will get a slice of revenues generated with the portfolio, but the upshot for InterDigital is that they have over 2.5k more US grants and a new licensing team to look for new licensing opportunities. According to an analysis in IAM, the Technicolor portfolio plugs some gaps in the technologies covered by InterDigital’s own portfolio, adding many video patents to what was largely a wireless communications portfolio.

Why it Matters

The Technicolor licensing operation was very highly regarded. In December, the company announced that they wanted to focus on their operating business, and we speculated at the time that they might be outsourcing the licensing to an external company. Instead, they’ve gone and sold it off entirely and kept a back-end to the deal. This leaves Technicolor with an IP licensing revenue stream and provides InterDigital with a much-strengthened patent position, and it will be interesting to watch what they do with this new position of power.

Dropbox Stocking up on Patents as IPO Approaches

Dropping some IP into Dropbox


The Story

Dropbox’s IPO is looming, due to come in later this month, and current estimates predict they’ll fall slightly short of their 2014 $10bn valuation. The future prospects of the business are key to attracting investors at an IPO, for which IP is a crucial part of the story. This is likely to be part of the reasoning behind Dropbox’s recent acquisitions from IBM’s vast patent portfolio. These join patents from acquisitions made in previous years from Intellectual Ventures, SugaSync and Sony, meaning that over a quarter of their 600 patents have come from acquisitions. This is common practice for tech firms going to IPO, with Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snap, Facebook, and Alibaba all buying patents from IBM prior to their IPOs to quickly support their tech with older IP.

Why it Matters

The under-valuation won’t please Dropbox, but could that itself be related to the state of the US system around software patents? This article on IPWatchdog sets out a compelling case for that angle, citing how Snap have seen some of their features copied by the established giants since their IPO. Without a robust IP system to protect your software features, competitors can go down the efficient infringement route and steal your market. If this is the case, then the need to overhaul the US system around software patents is very strong indeed.

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