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France Brevets, a €100 million investment fund dedicated to patent promotion and monetisation, has announced the launch of its first partnership. A press release issued yesterday explains that the fund, which is jointly backed by the French government and the publicly-owned Caisse des Depôts, will manage the near field communication (NFC) patent licensing programme of INSIDE Secure, the highly-regarded French company that provides semiconductor solutions for secure transactions and digital identity.
“France Brevets will give device manufacturers access to the INSIDE Secure NFC patents, which include both essential and implementation-specific approaches for NFC. The licensing program will address multiple categories of NFC device manufacturers, such as those making smartphones, feature phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, TVs, and smart meters,” the press release states.
The portfolio of patents in question covers a range of key jurisdictions, including the US, China, Japan, Korea and much of Europe. According to Yann Dietrich, vice president of IT & electronics at France Brevets, the strength of the portfolio should facilitate what he calls “an amicable route to offer licences”. But he also states: “Should a potential infringer unduly stall discussions, FB is ready to defend the rights that we are taking care of and enter into a litigious route.” In such circumstances, France Brevets will bear the costs. The firm’s team members have managed litigations in the US, the EU and Asia in the past, Dietrich says.
To the best of my knowledge there is nothing else like France Brevets in Europe. It was launched last year and currently has seven full-time employees, though the plan is to expand this number to 15. All those with the firm, Dietrich explains, come from industry and have a strong background in licensing and/or a track record in financial transactions. “Our first focus has been electronics and IT,” he says. “However, licensing intensity is increasing quickly in other domains: smart grid, batteries, electric vehicles and cloud computing; while there are also industries emerging that focus on the replacement of oil in both the energy and materials fields. We are therefore investing in those areas too.” Dietrich himself has previously held senior IP and licensing positions at a number of high-tech companies including France Telecom, Intel and Schneider.
If France Brevets is successful it will no doubt be labelled a state-sponsored troll in some quarters, and it is true that the model it is following does seem to be uncannily similar to the one pursued by what have become known as patent privateers – NPEs that handle monetisation efforts on behalf of operating companies which do not have the expertise and/or the inclination to do it themselves, for whatever reason. There are, of course, murky areas within privateering in which a state-funded operation may be wary of treading. However, the French government’s interest in the firm can actually be seen as an endorsement of the positive effects privateers can have: they free up companies to concentrate on what they do best, while at the same time reaping allowing them to reap a reward from developing technologies that others want to use.
Dietrich says that although France Brevets will inevitably have a bias towards working with French businesses “in order to leverage on French assets, the best is sometimes to complement assets of French origin with assets coming from outside France”. Thus, he states, France Brevets is looking at opportunities that go beyond the boundaries of its home country. “There is more to come on the subject,” Dietrich states cryptically.
Interestingly, France Brevets got together with Inside Secure following an introduction made by one of the company’s investors; these include the likes of Qualcomm, Motorola, Nokia Growth Partners and Samsung Venture Investment.
IP management, Licensing, Patents, IP business
Unbelievable. Nobody's really figured out whether contingency fee patent litigation is a good thing, and yet here's the French government assuming all the risk...Tom Grek, Rouse Legal on 27 Jun 2012 @ 02:53
Interesting progress and story in the patent field!!Frank Shi, Alstom on 28 Jun 2012 @ 04:08