Contributed by Martin Bijman
On December 23, 2014, RPX purchased the remaining assets of Rockstar for $900M. RPX describes in their release that of the 6,000 assets in the initial Rockstar $4.5B purchase of Nortel assets in July 2011, about 2,000 had been distributed to consortium members Apple, Blackberry, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Sony. These assets are a combination of US patents, applications, and foreign equivalents. Looking at the patent values, for the initial Rockstar purchase, the price was about $750K per asset, whereas in this purchase, RPX is paying about $500K per family.
Chipworks has been watching the distribution of Rockstar’s US assets to consortium members since the initial Rockstar purchase. By late 2012, a year and a half after the purchase, approximately 900 of the 2,700 US patents had been distributed. The balance of 2,000 distributed assets (approximately 1,100) was likely comprised of applications and foreign equivalents. The distribution of the 900 US patents as of late 2012 was as follows:
- Apple: assigned 568 Nortel US grants
- Microsoft: 182
- Blackberry: 127
- Ericsson: 9
- Sony - none found in US assignments
Looking at a landscape of the technologies in the purchased Nortel portfolio, the consortium members pulled patents mostly from the wireless communications and infrastructure areas, and fewer from the networking, optical, and e-commerce technologies. These latter patents remained with Rockstar.
Since then, Rockstar has sold some patents, formed subsidiaries and assigned patents, and has had more assets granted. About 69 patents have also expired. To summarize (in rough numbers):
- In July 2013: 46 patents sold to Spherix
- 8 patents assigned from Nortel to Mobilestar Technologies LLC
- 355 patents from Nortel and 74 new grants assigned to Constellation Technologies LLC
- 225 patents from Nortel and 54 new grants assigned to Bockstar Technologies LLC
- 1,074 patents from Nortel and 356 new grants assigned to Rockstar Consortium US LP
- Netstar Technologies LLC created, no patents found in US assignments
These subsidiaries are likely actively licensing, as is indicated by the RPX announcement of royalty streams. There has also been some litigation:
- October 2014: Mobilestar Technologies LLC re Asus et al.
- February 2014: Constellation Technologies LLC re Time Warner et al.
- December 2013: Bockstar Technologies LLC re Cisco
- October 2013: Rockstar Consortium US LP re Asustek et al.
Today, Rockstar has approximately 2,176 US grants among 1,764 families. At a sale price of $900M, that works out to approximately $500K/family. Some of this value is represented by licenses to as many as 30 companies.
By purchasing these patents, RPX protects their customers from future patent litigation and will be able to attract new customers for their patent risk management services.