Joff Wild

As the first full week of 2013 gets underway, it’s a good time to have a look at how the companies listed on the highly unofficial IAM IP Index performed over the last 12 months. The Index, you will recall, is made up of some of the IP-based businesses whose shares are publicly traded on stock exchanges in various parts of the world. It’s not an exhaustive ensemble, but it does feature many of the high-profile players. Most IP pure plays, of course, are private not public.

The companies we report on do different things and focus on different markets. What unites them is that at the core of their stated business proposition is a specific focus on intellectual property. Looking at how they are getting on provides a snapshot of how the markets might be viewing IP as an investment opportunity at any given time, while comparing results over a longer time period may give some indication of underlying sentiment. I use the words “might” and “may” advisedly, because in and of themselves share prices do not necessarily tell you very much at all. But you knew that already!

Anyway, below is how the 11 companies that currently make up the Index were getting on as of approximately 2.30 pm UK time today, 7th January. The first figure after the company name, and the exchange on which it is listed, represents market capitalisation; the second is the percentage rise or fall it has had over the last 52 weeks:

Acacia (Nasdaq) - $1.32289 billion market capitalisation; -25.24% 52 week return

InterDigital (Nasdaq) – $1.806 billion; +9.43%

Murgitroyd (London) - £40.19 million; +48.42%

Pendrell (Nasdaq) - $339.55 million; -50.19%

RWS (London) - £262.36 million; +42.43%

Rambus (Nasdaq) - $544.42 million; -38.55%

RPX (Nasdaq) - $510.56 million; -25.63%

Tessera (Nasdaq) - $885.69 million; -2.99%

VirnetX (NYSE Amex) - $1.614 billion; +18.18%

Vringo (NYSE Amex) - $266.69 million; +253.19%

WiLan (Toronto) – C$577.08 million; -17.51%

Year on year, then, that’s five companies going up and six going down. Vringo is new to the Index, but the other 10 have been featured before. And if you compare performance to the end of July 2012, the last time we looked at how they were all faring, things are pretty positive; only Acacia, RPX and WiLan have seen further falls, with all the others on the rise – some, such as InterDigital and VirnetX, significantly so. Over the coming year it will be interesting to see whether they can continue to hold the line; while Vringo’s fortunes are also going to be worth keeping an eye on. The company has seen a huge rise in value over a pretty short space of time. The likes of Acacia can attest to the fact that a fall in share value can also happen quickly, even when there is no real logic to it.

Two others that are particularly interesting are Murgitroyd and RWS - the two IP service providers on the Index. The former is the only publicly listed patent and trademark attorney firm that I am aware of; while the latter specialises in searches and translations. As others on the Index have risen and fallen precipitously, these two businesses have steadily grown over quite a decent period of time. It may be the case that their business models are the easiest for non-IP experts to get a handle on; something that makes them seem like relatively safe, niche investment opportunities.