Google Uses the Brokered Patent Market for the First Time to Sell Lithium-Ion Battery Patents

By Steve Brachmann
September 7, 2018

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.

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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.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 4 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. David Wanetick September 7, 2018 9:49 am

    If the price of single asset patent sales were to drop 50% from 2017 levels, the transactions costs would come close to exceeding the net proceeds sellers receive.

  2. Software Inventor September 7, 2018 9:07 pm

    This is a very important piece. While big tech has used its leverage and lobby to advance anti-patent legislation and policy through congress and the courts over the past decade, this piece and data indicates conversely that the whole of our patent and innovation value is in free-fall. Big tech’s portfolios too are dropping in value, thereby the policy they advocate is shooting themselves, their investors, and Americans in the foot. Lastly, who is benefiting? Who is the buyer of the patents (on the cheap?)

    Congress and courts might wake up to the facts…appears they believe that they responding to the big techs anti-patent pleas to support their international market initiatives against the likes of their peer China’s SOEs and Europe oligarchs? Yet, in fact, anti-patent legislation and policies are weakening our nation’s competitive stance, offers our competitors market entry points, and worse yet cuts off the life blood of our economy and national prosperity engine: innovation of disruptive technologies by independent inventors. Hence, all US stakeholders lose; China wins, and Europe retains a competitive foothold.

    Shouldn’t we as a country re-evaluate our policies to make ALL American stakeholders more competitive and successful?

  3. concerned September 8, 2018 8:33 am

    @2

    In addition, all the suckers that fed the Big Techs their so-called patented (unprotected) ideas must dry up eventually. We will not be suckers forever and watch our ideas get ripped off.

    The word gets out that developing an idea, spending lots of money and time, just to get ripped off by the entire system, is not a great pursuit. In fact, inventors are money ahead just to keep the ideas to themselves and move on.

    Again, this patent situation looks so much like the subprime situation. A few bad apples made money the fast and crooked way in the beginning. Then others noticed the easy money and jumped in. Then most of the country jumped in and the gang bang almost brought financial collapse.

    It seems the long money is made the honest way. Encourage invention, do not be a hog, just a pig, pay the inventor their due, and make the real serious money over time. But who has the patience to do business the honest, time-tested way?

  4. Eric Berend September 8, 2018 3:41 pm

    In accordance with its obsessive campaign to weaken and destroy patents in the United States, how can it be considered as being legitimate that Google should gain even ONE DOLLAR from any patent sale?

    Oh (“oops”) – forgot about the “real world” there, for a moment. U.S. patents are now arbitrarily declared as being ‘not for the “little” people’: rather, for the sport of oligarchs only (true “kings” are no more in the world, nowadays).

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