Factors influencing value of patents

08/10/2022 0 By indiafreenotes

Patent monetization is an important part of managing an IP portfolio. But before pursuing a particular patent monetization strategy, it is important to have a general sense of the value of the portfolio. In all, the complexities and nuance of patent valuation is a complicated undertaking, requiring a great deal of experience, expertise, and judgment. As such, the many approaches that a patent valuation expert might employ, and the information he or she might rely upon, are beyond the scope of an introductory article. However, this article will enable skilled IP attorneys to develop a solid sense of the valuation process, and to make informed decisions as to how and when to engage an expert.

Potential for Producing Revenue and Profitability

Some patents possess value because they are directly responsible for added revenue. The patented technology might be so important to the product that it drives additional purchases or commands a premium price. Similarly, the subject of the patent might drive sales of related, but unpatented, products. Examples include derivative sales (replacement parts, supplies, and maintenance services) and convoyed sales (sales often made in conjunction with the patented product).

Other patented technologies do not directly contribute to revenue, but might nonetheless be valuable to the patent owner. For example, the patented technology might make it less expensive to manufacture a product, directly reducing the cost of doing business and improving the owner’s bottom line. Others represent an add-on technology that doesn’t directly increase revenue but allows the patent owner to keep up with the feature offerings provided by competitors.

Patents may also be valuable to the patent owner in circumstances where there is not a clear connection to profitability. Patents can, in some circumstances, also be used to great effect for strictly defensive purposes. For example, the patent owner might rely on the patent to stake out a technological realm within which the owner could potentially sue for infringement, but which may also ward off competitors contemplating a lawsuit by raising the prospect that the owner would institute a countersuit.

Years of patent life remaining. Most investors would not want a patent that has limited years of patent protection (e.g. one that is more than 16 years old). However, a patent that was too recently issued (e.g. within the past three years) is unlikely to have been litigated. The average age of patents when they are litigated is three years old. It is better to acquire a patent after it has been proven valid during litigation or has passed through the period when challenge to its validity is most likely. As a sweeping generality, those patents that are most valuable are between 10 and 13 years old.

Number of inventors listed on a patent. A higher number of inventors listed on a patent indicates that the patent is of higher quality than a patent that has a lower number of patent inventors listed. The reason is that more intelligent scientists or engineers believed in and dedicated their time to championing–the technology behind the patent. However, having numerous inventors listed on a patent can be a source of vulnerability: if these inventors are deposed or cross-examined when their patent’s validity is challenged, it becomes more likely that one of the inventors will mention the existence of prior art. Also, failing to list an inventor on a patent risks giving rise to litigation.

Anticipated licensing revenue. A standard procedure in patent valuation is determining the net present value of royalties that will be received as a result of licensing the patent. One benefit of developing a highly delineated model of projected royalties is that very specific factors can be taken into account.

Ability to trigger sales of end products. Patents are most valuable when they cause consumers to buy more of the product or newer versions of the product. For instance, some ten years ago Intel and Microsoft were able to spark sales of personal computers when they introduced new semiconductors and software. Consumers willingly retired perfectly good PCs as they raced to embrace PCs with the greatest processing power and snazziest software. Similarly, patents that increase the utility for existing or new users are generally very valuable. Examples of this can be found in the patents behind the features on cell phones. Finally, patents are valued dearly when the patented feature is a primary factor in the demand for the product. This is to say that the patent is the product. Examples of this contention include the primary patents underpinning many pharmaceuticals, Velcro and Post-It notes.

Ability to generate add-on sales. A licensee may derive important ancillary benefits associated with selling products with embedded cutting-edge technologies. The benefits may be in the form of greater traffic generation to its web-site, catalogs, or stores. A more direct example of generating add-on sales would be a patent that improves on the functionality of ice skates could also contribute to higher sales of protective gear. In such instances, the licensor should seek higher licensing fees from the licensee since the licensee will enjoy spill-over benefits associated with selling the cutting-edge technologies.

Ability to generate sales in new markets. Licensors typically seek lower royalty rates from licensees who will sell the related products in a new market compared to the royalty rates they seek from competitors who will challenge the licensors in their existing markets. While the royalties per unit from the former licensee will be lower, there are two factors that are accretive to patent value in this scenario. First, the total royalties generated by a licensee pioneering a new market are likely to be substantial. Secondly, licensees penetrating new markets do not pose the profit denigration issues for licensors that competing licensees represent.

Stage of development. Typically, the earlier in the commercialization stage a technology is, the lower the licensing value. This is because there are significant risks in the technology never being brought to the market and if the technology eventually becomes market-ready, this will only be achieved at great expense. In the scenarios in which the licensee would have to make much of this investment, the licensing fees would be less lucrative for the patentee.

Quality of law firm. Services such a PatentCafe rate and rank law firms on their history of writing patents that successfully sustain invalidity challenge. Patents drafted by law firms that score highly on such rosters are generally of higher quality than patents that score poorly on such surveys.

Quality of patent examiner. Patents that are granted by patent examiners with longer tenures and more impressive records of granting patents that successfully sustain invalidity challenge are statistically more valuable than patents without such lineage.

Size of portfolio being sold. Our research indicates that each patent family will receive the highest price when between 25 and 76 patent families are included in a patent portfolio. Portfolios with more than 76 patent families are discounted because the buyers believe that the sellers are purging a lot of their mediocre patents in the portfolio sale. On the other side of the spectrum, selling too few patents yields a discounted value per patent because of the natural aversion that patent managers have to seek significant funds (e.g. $3 million) from their Boards of Directors in order to buy a small number of patents (e.g. two).