Small Publicly-Traded Ringtone Company Acquires Lycos Patents
April 18, 2012- Last month, a small publicly-traded ringtone company, Vringo, announced that it had merged with Innovate/Protect which it describes as, “a company that maximizes the economic benefits of intellectual property assets.” Through a subsidiary, I/P Engine, Innovate/Protect is currently asserting patents in a lawsuit filed September 15, 2011 in the Eastern District of Virginia against AOL, Gannett, Google, IAC, and Target. The in-suit patents (6,314,420 and 6,775,664) relate generally to techniques for improved search relevance. The patents were assigned in June 2011 to SmartSearch Labs (later renamed I/P Engine in September) by assignor, Lycos. A security assignment was executed on the same date between SmartSearch and Hudson Bay Master Fund, which appears to an investment vehicle of private equity firm, Hudson Bay Capital Management. Presumably, Hudson Bay provided at least some of the capital to fund for the acquisition of the patents by I/P Engine. I/P Engine’s CEO is one of the named inventors of the patents, Andrew Lang. Following the merger announced in March, Andrew Lang joined Vringo as CTO. Also, joining Vringo is David Cohen, formerly senior litigation counsel at Nokia. Vringo reportedly generated $718,000 in revenues in 2011. The company’s annual report notes ZTE and Nokia as customers that supply Vringo ringtone products to their mobile handset customers. Following the merger, shareholders of Innovate/Protect own 55.41% of the combined entity’s stock. A Markman claim construction hearing in the I/P Engine suit is scheduled for June 4, 2012 and the trial is scheduled to begin October 16, 2012. In August 2010, the Lycos search business was sold by Daum Communications to Ybrant Digital for $36 million.