Richard Lloyd

IAM can exclusively reveal that in a major move in the IP market, defensive patent aggregator RPX is set to acquire PatentFreedom, the NPE information service co-founded and run by Dan McCurdy. As part of the deal McCurdy, who is also the CEO of AST, will join the defensive patent aggregator. It is not currently clear whether Chris Reohr, who co-founded PatentFreedom with McCurdy, will also make the jump across. When contacted by IAM RPX would not comment.

McCurdy, who features in our top 40 market makers published in the latest issue of IAM, established PatentFreedom in 2009, saying that he saw the service as a means to allow operating companies to be much more aggressive in taking on the NPEs that were threatening them with litigation.  He was named CEO of AST in 2008. Prior to this he was a founder and CEO of IP advisory business Thinkfire and before that was president of Lucent Technologies’ IP business.

As a high-profile player in the patent market it will be interesting to see how McCurdy fits into the RPX team. For RPX it’s a major statement of its intent to grow the research side of its business. IAM reported last month on the defensive aggregator's launch of its own NPE data provision service and commented at the time that it was a move which suggested the firm was parking its tanks on PatentFreedom's lawn, especially because unlike the latter's service the RPX one is free. Adding PatentFreedom's in-depth data to its own means that RPX will not have any serious competition in this space and may allow it to add a premium, fee-based service to its roster of offerings. 

It remains to be seen what sort of relationship AST and RPX will have in the future but this move could lead to closer cooperation between the two. IAM understands that McCurdy is to be replaced as AST’s CEO by Russell Binns, who is currently head of IP law and litigation at Avaya. The company is one of AST’s 28 current members. Binns is well known to the AST membership and to the defensive patent aggregator’s staff, so his transition into the new role should be a smooth one.

For RPX this is another step in the aggressive expansion of its business. Earlier this year the patent aggregator announced that it had been granted approval to act as a coverholder at the Lloyd’s of London insurance market. While insurance has been identified as a key sector for future growth, the purchase of PatentFreedom is a further sign of RPX's ambition to grow. It may also represent a very healthy payday for McCurdy and Reohr.