Joff Wild

In another sign that Fortress IP Group intends to move heavily into stick-based patent licensing, it is set to announce the appointment of a new, high-profile IP litigation manager. IAM has learned that Jon James will join the firm from Perkins Coie, where he is a partner and co-chair of the global IP practice. Fortress recently took control of portfolios that had previously been owned by NPEs Inventergy and Marathon – with which it had financing agreements – and has begun asserting some of the patents contained with them against the likes of Apple, HTC and ZTE.

The hire of James clearly indicates that Fortress expects to be involved in a lot more litigation in the near future and that it is very serious about winning. As a senior player inside a major US law firm, James would have an income in the high six or low seven figures and would not have considered a switch for anything less; neither would he have swapped roles without being confident of the quality of the Fortress patents and of the level of support he would be given. For those that Fortress is litigating against – now and in the future – all these things might ring alarm bells.

The Fortress IP Group was established in 2013 when a team led by Eran Zur was recruited largely from RPX, where Zur was a co-founder. Since that time it has done a number of financings with loans secured against borrowers’ patent portfolios at what are rumoured to be heavily discounted rates. The Fortress team has a reputation for painstaking, qualitative evaluation of a potential borrower’s portfolio before releasing funds.

You can be pretty sure that as well as reviewing each patent’s standalone value, Fortress assesses portfolios as a whole for technological and geographical spread – so mitigating the firm's risk. Thus, while it may be tougher to litigate, say, software-related patents in the US these days, if Fortress has done its job correctly, that will not matter too much as it will have other kinds of patents covering other jurisdictions to use against recalcitrant licensees. With that in mind, it is noteworthy that James has a great deal of experience operating in China.

As is vital for any operation getting involved in multiple suits, Fortress is a very well-funded operation and so will not be vulnerable to the kinds of delaying tactics available to deep pocket defendants. Patent litigation is the sport of kings, as someone once said, and Fortress can afford to play. The hire of Jon James is further confirmation of that.