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I have been having a bit of whizz around the Intellectual Ventures website and its blog IV Insights. In doing so I came across a post entitled IV by the Numbers. Among other things, it shares the following snippets:
• IV has raised more than $5 billion in capital since 2000.
• The firm has signed 30 licensing customers as strategic partners and generated more than $2 billion in licensing revenues
• It has built a portfolio of more than 35,000 IP assets – including 3,000 patents and applications generated internally.
• IV has spent $1.5 billion to acquire IP, including $400 million on buying patents from individual inventors.
• Since 2003, IV has evaluated 35,000 IP assets each year and closed over 1,600 acquisitions.
• Up to now, more than 400 universities, governments and institutions from various parts of the world have developed relationships with IV. More than 3,000 inventors from these organisations have sent the firm 10,000 invention ideas.
Of course, this is only the stuff that IV wants you to know, but I thought it interesting nevertheless.
However, there was one other stat that I have not listed because I did not understand it. It's this:
Our invention investments span more than 50 technology areas including information and computer technology, metamaterials, health technologies, materials lifecycle management, next generation cloud computing, future surgery solutions and new approaches to addressing the worldwide energy crisis. In fact, we were granted 1,293 patents in 2010, making us #13 compared to other companies on a list by the USPTO.
I looked at the list referred to in the paragraph above and could not find IV anywhere on it, although I did find an “Invention Science Fund I, LLC” that received 93 grants in 2010. I don’t know if that has anything to do with IV, but it sounds like it could have. Where the other 1,200 grants come from, though, I don’t know. It could be that there are other entities listed which may be owned by IV but whose names do not suggest any connection, or it could be that there are lots of IV subsidiaries which received under 40 grants in 2010, but which cumulatively get the firm to the magic number. I suppose it is also possible that IV is actually referring to a global number of grants – although if that is the case it could have been worded a lot better.
The other possibility, of course, is that the figure is not actually correct – but I would be very surprised if that were the case. Why bother to mention it if it is not accurate? More likely the grants have been shared between myriad IV subsidiaries that are not immediately recognisable as such. And that strikes me as a bit of a lost opportunity. IV clearly wants to be seen as a generator of inventions and a facilitator of innovation. Getting the Intellectual Venture’s name on as many grants as possible is one way – superficial as it may be – of sending out the message that it is more than an NPE. So why not do that?
UPDATE - I have received the following note from Kasey Halmagyi, Corporate Communications Manager at IV, clarifying everything:
First of all, apologies if our stat was confusing! To clarify, yes, IV was issued 1,293 US patents in 2010. Those include patents on inventions we developed as well as patents and patent applications that we purchased that granted in 2010. The reason you weren’t able to find them all in the USPTO database you were searching is that often times our patents are assigned to subsidiaries of IV. You’re also right in noting that patents assigned to the name “Invention Science Fund 1, LLC” are IV patents.
Licensing, Patents, IP business
"Our invention investments" is broader than "our patents". I don't think it is global grants and they don't say they are on the list; they just compare their position to those listed.
Given the depth and breadth of their engagement in the IP creating world I could well imagine they could hit this figure with those assets where they have an "exclusive" exploitation right. 400 Universities etc (the generators of lots of IP) could easily swell this number.
However, your question highlights a fundamentally important issue in the world of IP, which is fast bringing that world into serious disrepute. Transparency and anti-competitive cartels. Can you spot the 1293 US patents in question without undue burden? If as an SME for example you desired to avoid running into Intellectual Ventures in the US how would you do that? Equally, can you list the US patents where Apple for examples has an exclusive or non-exclusive licence? The USPTO does not require registering of licences or agreements to licence.
These USPTO tables are largely meaningless unless you can lift the veil of secrecy around IP transactions. That veil ensures that true innovation is stifled and not a “patent troll” to be seen; we tend to know what patents the NPEs have but not what other aggregators have control over be they independents or otherwise. When you appreciate this you begin to see how IV is more like IBM than NPE or the pejorative “patent troll” and why, despite the protestations of those with large patent estates and Fortune 500 listings, the NPE phenomena is a side issue in the debate about the health of the IP system and patent reform in the US.Nicholas White, Tangible IP on 18 Jul 2011 @ 10:09
Hi, Joff. The portfolios that IV buys often have active patent applications in them. In addition, IV very often files reissue applications for patents in newly acquired portfolios. Finally, IV seems to have rights to make the priority application filing for some of its institutional "partners," and for others it seemingly has international rights (e.g., everywhere but the selling institution's home country).
Their released count of IP assets (a neologism that I take to mean patents, applications, and unfiled invention disclosures) has jumped in the past few months from 30,000 to 35,000.
IV employs approximately 25 patent law firms in the US, in addition to its own in-house staff of attorneys. Their patent prosecution budget must be one of the largest in the world.Thomas Ewing, Avancept LLC on 18 Jul 2011 @ 11:29