Japanese company acquires rights to former internet giant’s brand and ‘licensed technology’ in lesson for entrepreneurs

Source: Gaku (CC BY 2.0)

Five years ago, many market observers were expecting Yahoo’s patent auction to give the stricken internet company a multi-billion-dollar payday.

Most of those patents only found a buyer last year — long after the demise of Yahoo itself — reportedly pulling in less than $8 million.

But perhaps those market observers were doing their market observing in the wrong place.

This week, Z Holdings — the subsidiary that controls SoftBank’s Yahoo-branded Japanese internet business — announced the termination of its existing brand licence with Yahoo successor Verizon Media, which is about to be acquired by private equity giant Apollo Global…

Vivo S1 Pro. Source: Vivo

Last month, we learned that Acacia Research — one of the most renowned non-practicing entities (NPEs) from patent monetisation’s floruit — was back in buying action, acquiring a portfolio from Singapore-based Transpacific IP.

Acacia has been going through something of a renaissance lately following several years in the post-Alice, post-America Invents wilderness. The company’s Transpacific purchase followed its initiation of multiple new assertion campaigns in the latter half of 2018, several IP-focused executive hires, and the acquisition of a 5% stake in fellow NPE Immersion. …

Singapore CBD at dusk. Source: jjcb (CC BY 2.0)

Here’s a blast from the past: two of the biggest names from the early 2010s heyday of ‘patent trolling’ — including Asia’s most prominent non-practising entity (NPE) — have just done a deal, after years of keeping relatively low profiles.

In a transfer executed back in March but recorded with the USPTO earlier this month, California’s Acacia Research acquired a portfolio of telecoms-related patent assets from Singapore-based Transpacific IP.

The package includes 51 granted US patents and two US applications, along with several hundred non-US equivalents. …

Photo credit: KAIST

A patent linked to South Korean ‘sovereign patent fund’ Intellectual Discovery (ID) and the country’s Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has been asserted against AT&T in the Eastern District of Texas. The patent at the centre of the dispute also appears to be connected to a political scandal in South Korea — as well as the wider debate about IP monetisation in the country.

According to RPX, a company called Kaifi LLC filed the suit on 26th April, alleging that the telecoms firm had infringed one of its patents relating to an ‘internet network connecting and roaming…

Source: Chandler Cruttenden /Unsplash

Toyota’s announcement this week that it will grant royalty-free licences to almost 24,000 “vehicle-electrification” patents has, expectedly, drawn comparisons to Tesla’s ‘opening’ of its patent portfolio several years back.

In a June 2014 blog post entitled ‘All Our Patent Are Belong To You’, Tesla founder Elon Musk said that the electric vehicle (EV) maker had removed all of its patent grant certificates from the wall where they hung in its Palo Alto headquarters.

This spot of spring cleaning was, wrote Musk, “in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology”.

He stated: “Tesla will…

Source: Josh Herder / Pexels

Has Canon finally come to terms with the secondary market in patents?

The Japanese camera-maker has been one of the most vociferous anti-‘troll’ voices out there. While its IP head Kenichi Nagasawa has been outspoken in his criticism of operating companies that sell to non-practising entities (NPEs, or ‘trolls’ to some), it has always been prepared to aggressively defend itself against attacks from them — an, increasingly, to go after infringers of its own IP.

In line with these sentiments, in June 2014 it joined Google, SAP, and Dropbox to co-found the License-On-Transfer (LOT) Network, members of which make a…

ByteDance’s headquarters in Beijing. Source: ByteDance

If you’re outside of China, you’ve probably never heard of ByteDance. But the Beijing-based startup’s mobile apps are used by more than 800 million people worldwide every day. It’s said to be seeking fresh investment that would value it at US$75 billion.

And now, it’s getting a taste for patents.

ByteDance’s core products include Jinri Toutiao, a news and info aggregator that tailors content recommendations based on its users’ preferences, and Douyin (or TikTok), a “selfie” app that allows users to film themselves singing along to pop songs. The latter has proven wildly popular across China and Southeast Asia (North…

Xiaomi’s HQ in Beijing. Source: Jon Russell

First of all, an apology is in order. The last time I posted a story here was back in July 2017 — which is way too long ago — when I reported on Apple’s purchase of patents from a South Korean government-linked NPE named Goldpeak. I think that story was a scoop, and I owe thanks to my former comrades at IAM for circulating it to the wider world.

In any case, it has been an especially busy year-and-four-months for me, hence the radio silence. Never fear, however — I’ve been keeping my eyes, ears and, yes, nose on the…

Image credit: Marco Paköeningrat (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Apple has just done something that it doesn’t do very often. It has acquired a patent portfolio from a non-practicing entity (NPE) — a type of company with a business model that is often pejoratively referred to, including by Apple itself, as ‘patent trolling’.

What makes this transaction even more interesting is the original source of the patents in question.

According to US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data, a Seoul-based entity named Goldpeak Innovations Inc assigned 11 patents to Apple on 22nd May this year. This assignment was recorded with the USPTO on 29th June.

Here’s a screenshot of…

IP Bridge’s patent portfolio broken down by previous assignees. Source: ‘Mobilizing National Innovation Assets: Understanding the Role of Sovereign Patent Funds’, DEEP Centre, Canada, May 2016

IP Bridge (IPB) — the company that operates Japan’s first and, so far, only sovereign patent fund (SPF) — announced last week that it had entered into a patent licensing agreement with an unnamed “multinational company”.

While most terms of the deal were undisclosed (as per usual), here is a snippet of what IPB does tell us in its press release confirming the agreement:

IP Bridge granted such company a license under IP Bridge’s portfolio of wireless telecommunications standard-essential patents (including the GSM, W-CMDA and LTE wireless telecommunications standards). …

Jack Ellis

Writing about tech, innovation, and intellectual property in Asia and beyond. These are personal musings; for my professional output, visit www.TechInAsia.com

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