In late August, Bloomberg Law published an article which reported that Mountain View, CA-based Internet tech giant Google had conducted its first-ever sale of patent assets in the U.S. brokered patent market. Data collected and provided to Bloomberg from the Richardson Oliver Law Group shows that Google had sold 207 assets, including 138 U.S. patents, in a single deal this year.
The U.S. patents sold by Google covered lithium-ion battery-related technologies, which Google had first acquired in 2012 from its acquisition of the Motorola Mobility portfolio. Google’s patent package was first listed on the brokered market in the second quarter of this year and in June, the lithium-ion portfolio was purchased by Chinese battery maker Amperex Technology.
Although Google has sold the largest number of U.S. patents on the domestic brokered market this year, Japanese printer and imaging company Seiko Epson has sold 309 assets, the highest total of patent assets sold so far this year, in two packages. Epson’s sales total includes 87 U.S. patents. Other top sellers include Taiwanese multimedia tech developer Sunplus Technology (111 assets, all of them U.S. patents), IT firm Hewlett Packard Enterprise (84 assets, including 79 U.S. patents) and patent commercialization firm Eagle Harbor Holdings (74 assets, including 42 U.S. patents). Amperex’s purchase of Google’s patent portfolio places it second among top buyers on the brokered market, behind Advanced Interconnect Systems which purchased 233 assets, including 71 U.S. patents, in a single package deal.
As Kent Richardson of the ROL Group notes, the brokered market is only one sales channel among many which companies may choose to utilize to engage in patent sales. “It depends on the specifics of the portfolio that a company is trying to sell,” Richardson said. “If a company is familiar with those companies who might want to buy a portfolio, the easiest thing would be to go to them and offer a direct sale. If the company is less familiar with the market, a brokered sale can be more effective as a sales channel.”
This might mark Google’s first sale of patent assets through the brokered market but the company has listed patent assets for sale on IAM Market for a number of years. The company currently has seven portfolios listed for sale on IAM including portfolios covering caller ID, document processing, email processing, enterprise malware removal and interactive notifications technologies. Google’s sale of these patent portfolios doesn’t necessarily indicate that the company has any plans to move out of those business sectors, according to Richardson. “I think that the better way to look at this is that Google looks at its current risks and needs and balances its risks accordingly,” he said. “One way to interpret it could be that Google believes that it has enough assets in a certain area to protect what they care about.” Although he couldn’t speak to the specific terms of the Google patent deal, Richardson noted that it was safe to assume that most corporate sellers would want any deal to include a license back to the selling company to practice the patents being sold.
This data from the ROL Group is part of a larger market analysis being produced by the law firm for an annual report which will published on this website sometime next March. Among the notable trends being revealed by the data is a decline in the price of single asset sales. “The prices for single patent asset sales seemed to have stabilized last year but it looks like they are trending downwards again to where the price has dropped substantially,” Richardson said. According to the data analyzed to this point, Richardson said that single asset sale prices have dropped by as much as 50 percent year-over-year from 2017, the year which saw the largest number of total patent asset deals of any year since ROL Group began conducting its patent market analysis going back nearly a decade. He added that reasons for the price decline would be made available in the market analysis report that ROL Group will release next March.