Jack Ellis

Beijing-based display technology company BOE has purchased several hundred patents from various third parties over the past two years, recently published records reveal.

Two assignments recorded with the US Patent and Trademark Office towards the end of April this year (here and here) show that BOE acquired a substantial number of US patent assets from General Electric on 22nd December 2015. Both consist of 131 assets each - though many of these, if not all, seem to be duplicated in both assignments. The transferred patents largely relate to LEDs and related technologies.

BOE has also been busy buying patent portfolios from Japanese corporates. In an assignment recorded on 14th January this year but executed back on 18th November 2014, a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of the Beijing company acquired 425 US patent assets from Seiko Epson, most of which appear to be relevant to liquid crystal display technology. Another assignment, recorded in September 2015 and executed the preceding February, confirms that Casio transferred six US patent assets covering various display technologies to BOE.

Chinese corporate buyers are becoming progressively active in the patent transactions market, and news of China-linked patent deals has increased in frequency of late. Shenzhen telecoms giant Huawei has made a number of patent acquisitions from the likes of IBM, Sharp, Freescale and Yahoo over the past few years. Midea’s buyout of Toshiba’s white goods business, while not purely an IP deal, does appear to include the biggest patent transaction of 2016, with as many as 5,000 patent assets changing hands; while Beijing-based mobile device maker Xiaomi has purchased thousands of patents since the start of the year in headline deals with BroadcomIntel and Microsoft.

BOE’s big patent buys appear to have taken place on the watch of former head of IP management Bin Sun. Interestingly, it seems she was hired by Xiaomi earlier this year to run its newly established IP litigation team. Organic portfolio growth has also accelerated at BOE during the past few years of her IP team leadership; the company was among the top 10 filers for Chinese-issued patents in 2015, and came in fifth place on a list of Chinese entities that received the most grants during the same year.