Richard Lloyd

Finjan has already recouped the $2 million it spent on acquiring a small package of patents from IBM last year as part of a deal which saw the cyber security business form a new subsidiary, Finjan Blue. The news emerged as the company announced its results for the fourth quarter and for 2017 as a whole, revealing a big jump in revenues to more than $50 million - including around $15 million in net income. It was, in short, a banner year for one of the small band of public IP companies (PIPCOs) that has thrived despite recent legal and regulatory headwinds in the US.

The deal with IBM was a small component of that success, but it marked a significant change of tack for Finjan, which before this deal had been focused on licensing its own IP as well as growing a mobile security business. The transaction was announced last August and saw the PIPCO pick up 25 grants and 16 applications from Big Blue for an initial cost of $2 million and a further $6.5 million over five years.

At the time of the announcement, Finjan CEO Phil Hartstein revealed that not only would the new subsidiary be looking to license the IP but that it was also interested in how the acquired patents might be able to support its product business, Finjan Mobile. “This deal augments our licensing business but also adds value to the product side,” Hartstein explained to this blog.

But on a recent call with analysts to discuss the latest results, Hartstein disclosed that such had been the licensing interest in the assets that the PIPCO had shifted its efforts “to existing licensing and settlement discussions in a positive way, with revenues allocated into Finjan Blue having already offset the current invested expense”.

The deal with IBM and licensing agreements that Hartstein and his team put in place last year with the likes of FireEye and Sophos reflect Finjan’s progress in monetising its IP, but, as with many PIPCOs, it has been far from all plain sailing. Most recently the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a large part of a $39 million damages award against Blue Coat had to be remanded back to district court. That was just the latest stage in what is proving to be an extremely convoluted litigation battle between the two companies.

Not surprisingly, on the analyst call Hartstein was eager to highlight the positives from the recent Federal Circuit decision, stressing that Finjan’s IP had been shown to be valid and even holding out the prospect of a bigger damages award against Blue Coat, reflecting the fact that the defendant company has continued to profit from the alleged infringed IP while the litigation has been ongoing. “The table has been completely reset for damages and in our estimate the numbers have potential to increase dramatically,” he explained.  

To get to that point, however, is going to take more time and money - which is why arguably the biggest highlights for Finjan in 2017 were the capital raisings that it carried out in the second quarter which added nearly $30 million to its balance sheet. For all the progress it has made licensing its legacy patents and the new IBM assets, for the likes of Finjan IP value creation still hinges, to a large extent, on how much you have in the bank.