Jack Ellis

Xiaomi entered patent buying mode in earnest last year, striking acquisition deals with Broadcom, Intel and Microsoft within the space of just a few months. Now new US Patent and Trademark Office assignment data indicates that Casio can be added to the growing list of companies that the Chinese tech player has bought IP assets from.

An assignment (number 041370/0790) recorded with the USPTO in January shows that the Japanese company transferred a portfolio including 59 US assets to Xiaomi in July last year. Much of it appears to relate to camera, image capture and image processing technology.

As is the case for several Chinese companies, Xiaomi is buying third-party patents to quickly fortify its IP position and increase freedom of action in anticipation of entering new geographies, product markets or technology areas. With regards to the last of these, it is hard not to see a connection between Xiaomi’s first two reported patent purchase deals – from semiconductor firms Broadcom and Intel – and the unveiling last week of the Surge S1, its first chip produced in-house.

This marks a major milestone for Xiaomi, since it makes it just the fourth smartphone manufacturer to also make its own chipset – after Samsung, Apple and compatriot Huawei – and could significantly reduce its reliance on chipmakers like Mediatek and Qualcomm. The acquisitions of semiconductor-related patents from Broadcom and Intel, as well as technology transfer from state-owned Datang Telecom, are likely to have expedited Xiaomi’s development of the Surge S1.

As for Casio, it does not appear to have made many such divestitures in the past, though assignments records suggest that it has sold patents with increased frequency of late. It transferred six US assets to Chinese manufacturer BOE in February 2015. In April last year, it assigned 98 US assets (USPTO numbers 040823/0287 and 040837/0220) to Solas OLED Ltd, an Ireland-based entity which lists Jeffrey Ronaldi – presumably the same individual who serves as CEO of Document Security Systems (DSS) – and IP licensing lawyers Richard Tashjian and Gerald Padian among its directors.

This may mean that Solas OLED is a new DSS subsidiary set up to monetise the Casio patents; or it might represent some other kind of collaboration between the two (DSS also comprises a product operation alongside its patent monetisation business). In any case, it looks like Casio is just the latest addition to the swelling ranks of Japanese corporates seeking to extract maximal value from their IP portfolios.