Joff Wild

A team of senior Rockstar Consortium executives has left the firm to start an IP advisory business they are calling Marquis Technologies. They will be led by John Veschi, previously Rockstar’s CEO and before that chief IP officer of Nortel. Their last day at the NPE - established in 2011 by Apple, BlackBerry, Ericsson, Microsoft and Sony after the Nortel patent auction - was Thursday 29th January, with Marquis opening for business the next day. A skeleton staff remains at Rockstar, but is expected to depart shortly in the wake of the sale of the firm’s 4,000-strong patent portfolio to RPX just before Christmas.

Speaking exclusively to IAM today, Veschi stated that Marquis was already in detailed talks with a variety of IP owners from the US, Europe and Asia about potential projects, and that he expects at least some of these to be up and running within the next few months. “We believe that we did a very good job first for Nortel’s creditors and then for the shareholders of Rockstar, and we are confident we can do something similar for others in the future,” Veschi stated. “We have been through a lot together and bring a unique set of skills to the table that we think have significant conglomerate value.”

Specifically, Veschi identified what he termed two “triple plays” that make Marquis unlike anything else currently operating in the IP market. The first comprises deep-seated insights into the technology and patent nexus, detailed knowledge of IP law and long experience of IP-based business models; while the second is made up of portfolio management expertise, wide-ranging relationships with licensees and well-established contacts among senior players in the private equity world. “Even inside sophisticated corporate IP teams you will often not find our breadth of skillsets and experiences,” said Veschi. “Now that we are not as constrained as we may have been in the past there is a lot that we are going to be able to do.” It would be wrong, he continued, to see Marquis as an entity that will only work on patent monetisation programmes. Although there will be opportunities in that field, Veschi said the firm is also very well-placed to advise on portfolio development and other strategic IP management issues, as well as defensive and offensive plays in venues such as the PTAB. “These are things we have a successful track record of doing and that we are keen to do again,” Veschi stated.

Asked whether he was concerned about starting out at a time when market conditions in the US are tougher than previously, Veschi stated that things could be better now but that the level of expertise he and his team can offer will always be in demand. What’s more, he stated, the firm is looking to operate globally and as things get harder in the States, so they may be becoming more interesting in both Europe and Asia. That said, he also explained that he expects that at some stage the US pendulum will swing back: “Eventually things will change and you need to be planning for that now so that you are not exposed when it happens.”

Although there are some outstanding issues surrounding the break-up of Rockstar that meant Veschi was unwilling to talk in detail about his time there, he did confirm that, as reported by IAM, he and the NPE’s senior executives had been in talks with its shareholders about a management buy-out before the RPX sale was fixed upon as their favoured exit route.   In fact, he explained, this is where the idea for Marquis came from. “Over the summer we were discussing an MBO with the shareholders and had secured the financing we needed, but the source of the funds did not want to be identified, so we needed to come up with a name for an entity through which the deal would be done. I suggested Marquis after the college [Marquis Lafayette] where I studied engineering. Although the deal did not happen, the name stuck and during our subsequent planning meetings we would always refer to our Marquis strategy.”

Today’s news is not a huge surprise. As Veschi told me, he and his colleagues have been through a great deal and have learned a hell of a lot. It’s only natural they want to stick together, especially as it makes good business sense. The group started off working together inside a corporate IP department, then transitioned into running one of the world’s biggest patent monetisation operations; along the way they were central to the identification and packaging of assets that raised $4.5 billion at auction and then built an entity that generated combined sales and licensing revenues in excess of another $1 billion. They have worked with multinational C-suites and major institutional investors and finance houses, have drilled deep into some of the world’s most cutting-edge technologies and have done detailed analysis about how they interplay with various patent landscapes. There are not many that can match that. “It’s a melancholy thing to have left Rockstar - we are going to look back with some fond memories,” Veschi said. “But we are now moving into a very exciting new era, which will present some great opportunities and the chance to shape our own destinies.” In the ideal world they might be doing that with the Rockstar portfolio as part of their offering; but, from where I sit, Marquis looks a pretty decent Plan B.