The seven companies are WiLAN, Acacia Research, Conversant IP Management (formerly known as Mosaid), Intellectual Ventures, Rambus, Round Rock Research and Tessera. The list is based on an evaluation by KnowMade of patent acquisition activity and litigation behavior since 2013.

The semiconductor industry has the attributes that appeal to patent licensing companies (PLCs), according to KnowMade and the firm expects PLCs will seek to extract increasing amounts of money from the semiconductor industry. KnowMade references a report by RPX Corp. from March 2015 in stating that “NPEs cost operating companies an estimated $12.2 billion in both legal fees and other legal costs and settlement or judgment amounts in 2014.”

“WiLAN is probably the major threat to semiconductor companies,” said Nicolas Baron, CEO and co-founder of KnowMade. During 2015 WiLAN acquired patents from several semiconductor companies including Infineon Technologies, Qimonda and Freescale. Several months later WiLAN filed law suits based on these patents through Polaris Innovation and North Star Innovations, two wholly owned subsidiaries of WiLAN.

Aggressiveness of patent licensing companies in the semiconductor field. Source: KnowMade.

KnowMade’s patent litigation risk analysis argues that WiLAN will continue with an aggressive strategy and has such companies as Apple, Hewlett Packard, Micron, Amkor Technology, Cypress, Nanya and others in its sights. Acacia Research has fewer semiconductor patents than WiLAN but the company files the highest number of patent litigation campaigns with a relatively high number of defendants.

Next: Name calling

While listing related terms – such as non-practicing entities (NPEs), patent holding companies (PHCs), patent monetization entities (PMEs), patent assertion entities (PAEs) and patent trolls, KnowMade acknowledges that some PLCs have R&D activities from which they generate patents which they then seek to monetize by licensing.

Clearly there is a continuum that ranges from companies that acquire patents solely to monetize them to those whose primary business is producing electronic products and services and who may choose to license patents to others or be compelled to license patents under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

In addition to the seven listed above KnowMade has identified DSS Technology Management, Future Link Systems, X2Y Attenuators and PACT XPP Technologies as PLCs.

“Some of them have shown strong patent enforcement activity since 2014, and they will continue to aggressively enforce their patents against semiconductor players over the next few years,” KnowMade, an associate of Yole Developpement, said in a statement.

More than 2,880 semiconductor-related US patents have been acquired by PLCs since 2013 and the threat extends up and down the semiconductor supply chain from integrated device manufacturers (IDMs) to outsource semiconductor assembly and test service providers (OSATs), KnowMade claimed.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

The joy of patents, part 1: The fun stuff

The joy of patents, part 2: Why patent?

The joy of patents, part 3: Patent trolls degrade innovation

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