What led you to found a firm specialising in IP transactions and investments?
I launched ICEBERG IP Group (acquired by Inception Partners) 20 years ago to create IP-backed ventures in the wireless and mobile handsets space. We built a number of ventures, securing licensing agreements and joint venture initiatives with a range of global handset makers and network operators. Over time, it became increasingly clear that patent protection in the global handset industry would become ever more critical with the rise of smartphones. This fuelled a market need for handset firms to buy patents to protect their innovation roadmap. We decided to address this by leveraging our expertise and relationships forged in IP-backed ventures, expanding our proposition to become one of the first entrants in the global IP transactions market – for many years now we have had a reputation for being a world leader in the field.
Which of the patent investments and monetisation deals that you have worked on are you most proud of – and why?
The deal structures that bring the most sense of accomplishment are typically multi-channelled, where an initial larger investment or transaction leads to multiple downstream monetisation events including licensing, venturing and sales using different parts of the portfolio. At Inception Partners, we regularly put these types of deals together, with a recent example being a patent portfolio from a global navigation company, whereby we secured the rights and then negotiated licensing arrangements with several big tech Silicon Valley firms, followed by subsequent sales to multiple buyers.
What are the biggest challenges that your organisations face and how do you overcome them?
For many companies the impact of covid-19 has presented a significant challenge this year and for our organisations this has been no exception. However, due to our presence and longstanding relationships in China and the wider Asian region, we were able to quickly assimilate the impact of nationwide lockdowns and how these would affect our IP monetisation globally, and adjust our approach accordingly. As the pandemic forced widespread lockdowns in Asia at the start of 2020, we focused our efforts on closing IP deals in Europe and the United States. As covid-19 spread to the West causing temporary shutdowns, we pivoted our attention back to Asia to renew our efforts there as the region began to re-open. By leveraging our global footprint across Asia, Europe and the United States we have been able to stay ahead of the curve for the most part and close deals with minimal disruption throughout these challenging times.
The IP monetisation space is a relatively young one. How are stakeholder expectations changing and what impact is this having on your business?
The IP global investments and monetisation market is still regarded by many as nascent compared to other more established markets for trading alternative asset classes. However, expectations increase year on year as companies seek more sophisticated ways to monetise their patent assets or protect themselves against patent risk. The first driver for change is the need for higher quality assets; this is evident from patent owners wanting to target their highest value patents for monetisation purposes or patent investors acquiring assets of the highest strategic importance. In addition, timescale is key for both sellers and buyers as the speed of technology obsolescence increases and the strategic importance of closing a deal quickly and effectively becomes ever more crucial. Finally, companies are becoming more discerning in their requirements as the market matures. The term ‘less is more’ springs to mind, with a marked preference for deal structures that involve fewer high-quality patents with a correspondingly higher monetisation potential.
How do you expect the international patent monetisation market to evolve in the coming years?
The market will require a far broader set of skills from the best IP investors and deal makers – skill sets that deliver a more comprehensive range of options on how best to maximise the underlying value of intellectual property. At Inception Partners, we have evolved and expanded by building on our long heritage in IP sales and acquisitions to become a leading IP and venture capital investor that delivers the right blend of funding, venturing and licensing skills to the global market. For example, we create opportunities for companies to invest their patents into bespoke IP ventures and share in the upside. In doing so, we provide a platform for our partners to generate returns from their patent assets and reinvest these funds back into R&D, enabling a virtuous cycle that promotes further patenting and continued global innovation.
Patrick Snow is the CEO and founder of Inception Partners, a global alternative asset investment firm that specialises in investments relating to intellectual property and venture capital.
A seasoned executive with more than 20 years’ strategic leadership and management experience, Mr Snow has generated over $1 billion in deal value and has structured more than 1,000 investments and transactions globally.
Click here to see his IAM 300 2020 profile.