Joff Wild

If you know someone looking for a potentially lucrative patent for Christmas, then you should consider dipping into the recently published Rockstar winter catalogue to see if there is anything in there which might tickle their fancy. Rockstar Winter 2012 Sales Prospects has been sent out to a range of prospective buyers, one of whom has kindly forwarded it to me. According to the executive summary:

Rockstar  periodically  identifies  certain  assets  in  our  portfolio  that  may  be  more  valuable  to other  parties.  The  assets  listed  herein  are  a  small  sample  of  the  assets  under  Rockstar’s management  that  the  company  feels  may  be  of  interest  to  those  parties  who  are  looking  to acquire patents.

They cover the following technologies:

• Social Networking –Message Sharing Privacy by Grouping

• Call Centers – Distributed Internet Call Center Architecture

• Data Networking – Network Address and Port Translation

• Digital Rights Management – Timed Availability of Secured Content

• Digital Signal Processors – Multicore DSP Architecture

• Optical Networking – Generic Framing Procedure for Data Traffic over Optical

• Broadband Services – Individualized Service Policies

This is not the first time Rockstar has put patents in the former Nortel portfolio it manages up for sale, but at first sight it does seem a slightly strange thing to do. After all, if there is value in a patent, you’d have thought that an NPE would look to maximise it through licensing deals rather than a straight sale. If you play your cards right, you should be able to make more money from multiple transactions rather than a straight divestment. And given that many on the Rockstar team used to work in the Nortel IP group, it’s not as if they do not know the rights it manages inside out. Of course, Rockstar is not your typical NPE, given that its major shareholders are five operating companies: Apple, Microsoft, Ericsson, RIM and Sony.  So maybe that has something to do with it.

Of course, a sale can be done under any kind of terms the parties decide upon. So, for example, if some of these patents ended up in the hands of other NPEs, a negotiated percentage of any resulting revenues raised from monetisation programmes could end up in Rockstar’s coffers, while also putting a helpful gap between Rockstar's owners and assertions that may be required to get licensing deals done. That’s a model which Intellectual Ventures has used in the past. It makes you wonder whether Rockstar is still in the market for patents too.