SAN JOSE, Calif. - It's been a big year for the IP patent--or so-called patent trolling--firms. Acacia, Intellectual Ventures Management, Interval Licensing, Patriot and others made big headlines in 2010.
In August, for example, Interval Licensing LLC, which is backed by Paul Allen, filed a complaint against AOL, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and YouTube.
The original case was dismissed. The firm did not name the infringing products in the suit. But this week, Interval Licensing re-filed the suit against those companies and listed four infringed patents in the case.
Another firm also made headlines in 2010. Intellectual Ventures Management LLC, a patent holder and administration group founded by Nathan Myhrvold, a former CTO of Microsoft Corp., has recently taken action on multiple fronts alleging patent infringement. In semiconductor industry the firm is pursuing two memory chip makers and three FPGA vendors.
And this week, Acacia Research Corp. said that its subsidiary, DRAM Technologies LLC, entered into a settlement agreement with Etron Technology America Inc. and Taiwan's Etron Technology Inc. covering patents relating to certain DRAM memory chips.
Founded in 1993, Acacia Research and its subsidiaries partner with inventors and patent owners, license the patents to corporate users and share the revenue. In recent times, it has reached patent settlements or licensing agreements with ARM, BMW, Hynix, IBM, NEC, Renesas, Seagate, TI and others.
''We are a leader in licensing patented technologies and have established a proven track record of licensing success with over 920 license agreements executed to date, across 87 of our technology licensing programs,'' according to a filing by the firm. ''Currently, on a consolidated basis, our operating subsidiaries own or control the rights to over 160 patent portfolios, which include U.S. patents and certain foreign counterparts, covering technologies used in a wide variety of industries.''
In August 2010, it formed the Acacia Intellectual Property Fund, L.P., or the Acacia IP Fund. The Acacia IP Fund is authorized to raise up to $250 million. The Acacia IP Fund will acquire, license and enforce intellectual property consisting primarily of patents, patent rights, and patented technologies.
In October, Acacia Research reported results for the three months ended Sept. 30, 2010. It reported record quarterly revenues of $63,949,000 during the third quarter of 2010, as compared to $16,169,000 in the comparable prior year quarter.
Acacia Research reported record quarterly GAAP net income of $24,675,000, or $0.70 per diluted share, for the third quarter 2010, as compared to a quarterly net loss of $3,429,000, or $.11 per diluted share, for the comparable prior year quarter.
''Revenues increased by $47.8 million, or 296 percent, due primarily to an increase in the average revenue per executed agreement,'' according to the firm.
Another firm, Patriot Scientific Corp., was not so lucky. Headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif. Patriot is the co-owner of the Moore Microprocessor Patent Portfolio licensing partnership with The TPL Group.
In October, the firm reported its first fiscal 2011 quarter ended Aug. 31, 2010. For the three month period ended Aug. 31, 2010, the company's revenues were $0.1 million, with net losses totaling $2.0 million. The company's net loss of $2.0 million during the current quarter included losses of $1.2 million from its equity investment in Phoenix Digital Solutions, the joint venture owned by the company and the privately-held TPL Group.
Patriot Scientific has been in litigation with TPL. In August, Patriot reported that it has withdrawn from discussions aimed at settling its outstanding actions against The Technology Properties Limited Group, LLC (TPL) and Alliacense LLC, the company's joint venture partner in the management of the MMP Portfolio of microprocessor patents, and its licensing division, respectively.
On April 12, 2010, the Company filed suit in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego against TPL, alleging breach of a $1 million promissory note obligation for which repayment was due Patriot on Feb. 28, 2010. On April 22, 2010 it filed an action in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara, against TPL and Alliacense which was placed under seal provisionally by the court at the defendants' request.
On August 12, 2010, the Court considered defendants' request to seal the file indefinitely and to compel private arbitration of the dispute and denied both Motions. On August 13, 2010 the Court provisionally allowed some file redactions pursuant to a Motion filed by TPL and will decide the appropriateness of those redactions on Sept. 30, 2010.
The complaint makes several allegations against TPL and Alliacense, including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, contract interference, constructive fraud, and unjust enrichment, while also seeking declaratory relief over specific contractual disagreements.
The complaint further seeks an accounting of revenues and expenses charged to the PDS joint venture, while also engaging in licensing activities designed to profit TPL at the expense of the interests of PDS and Patriot.