Acacia Acquires a Large Portfolio from an IoT-Enabled Wireless Chip Maker
- March 18, 2021
Category: Patent Market, Patent Watch, TPLFMarket Sector: SemiconductorsTag: TPLF
Chip maker NEWRACOM has joined the growing ranks of operating companies to divest patents to NPEs. According to USPTO records, the California-based fabless company—formed in 2014 by a group of over 20 individuals from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI)—assigned hundreds of homegrown US patent assets, as well as a number of counterparts in Asia and Europe, to an Acacia Research Corporation subsidiary last month.
The February 19 assignment was received by Atlas Global Technologies LLC, a Texas NPE that Acacia formed in August of last year. It has not filed any patent litigation—yet. The transacted portfolio—the US assets of which can be viewed on RPX Insight here—appear to be part of what NEWRACOM characterizes as its 802.11ax technology (a/k/a WiFi 6). On its website, NEWRACOM touts 802.11ax as enabling “unlimited possibilities for remote control and monitoring, smart devices, and industrial IoT applications”.
2020 saw publicly traded Acacia amass a sizeable stockpile of former operating company patents, with two of its NPEs launching litigation from those portfolios in early 2021. First, in January, Acacia’s R2 Solutions LLC filed separate Eastern District of Texas lawsuits against Deezer, Samsung, Target, WalMart, and Workday, accusing each of infringing overlapping subsets of seven from among the roughly 2,500 former Yahoo patents that Acacia acquired last year through Excalibur IP, LLC.
Also in January, Acacia’s Stingray IP Solutions LLC hit Samsung, again in the Eastern District of Texas, this time alleging infringement of four patents picked up from Harris Corporation (now L3Harris after the 2019 merger with L3 Technologies). Acacia describes that portfolio as comprising nearly 150 US patents “covering commercial applications of Wi-Fi and IoT technologies”.
RPX coverage of the R2 Solutions and Stingray IP Solutions campaigns—including the patents asserted and the products targeted—is available at “Acacia Begins Litigating Two Portfolios” (January 2021).
Acacia has been acquiring and litigating patents for more than 20 years, with a lull in activity preceding a shakeup, begun in 2018, when activist investors Sidus Investment Management and BLR Partners LP overhauled the company’s leadership. A strategic shift—initially characterized as an “absolute return asset management strategy”—followed, part of which has been accelerating patent portfolio acquisition and assertion. That acceleration continued through Acacia’s partnership with hedge fund Starboard Value, opening up access to as much as $500M in new capital, with which the company acquired several notable portfolios in 2019-2020 (see here and here).
Acacia began five new litigation campaigns in 2020, all in the first half and nearly all involving portfolios originating with major operating companies, including Agilent, HP’s semiconductor division (litigated by Acacia’s ID Image Sensing LLC); France Telecom/Orange SA (by Monarch Networking Solutions LLC); Siemens (also litigated by Monarch Networking Solutions); and Fusion-IO, later acquired by SanDisk, itself later acquired by Western Digital (Unification Technologies LLC).
Acacia has also continued litigating in prior campaigns, several of which remain open and active as of the publication date of this article, as do each of the campaigns that it initiated in 2020. With the completion of the NEWRACOM transaction, and with the creation of multiple new Acacia NPEs last year, more assertion from Acacia, through litigation or otherwise, is likely coming.
Meanwhile, Acacia’s Monarch Networking has hit a standing roadblock in its litigation against Charter Communications and Cisco (see here for RPX coverage), and Acacia is scheduled to release its Q4 and 2020 fiscal earnings on March 29.