Yahoo is selling 2600 patents – what can we learn about them?

Yahoo is putting up a portfolio of 2659 of its patents up for sale, and is accepting bids at the moment. Price expectations are up to 1 billion dollars.

2659 is a lot of patents by any measure, and this would stretch the resources of any patent analyst. However here at Ambercite, we have developed some powerful tools such as Cluster Searching to help these analysts, and so we were curious to explore this portfolio ourselves. In particular, we were wondering:

  • Of these 2659 patents, which were the best – and what sort of subject matter did they claim?
  • Which companies owned the most similar and important patents?
  • If a prospective buyer missed out on this portfolio – what are the similar patents they might consider buying?

 

How we did it

We used our Cluster Searching patent searching tool, using the following process:

  1. We obtained the full list of patents from an assignment filed by Yahoo at the USPTO to move these patents to new company set up to own these patents, Excalibur IP LLC.
  2. We entered these patent numbers 200 at a time into Cluster Searching, and downloaded reports of their AmberScore values. AmberScore is our prediction of patent importance based on its citation density
  3. We enter a list of the 200 patents with the highest AmberScore values into Cluster Searching, and ran a query for the most 2000 similar patents to these 200 patents, that were filed after June 1996 – and we were excluded the Excalibur patents from these results.
  4. We identified the owners of these patents with the highest total licensing Potential
  5. We also reviewed the individual patents with the highest individual potential., that were not owned by major companies and so potentially available for acquisition by other companies who might want to get into the same space.

This took about 30 minutes or so

 

What are the best patents in the list of patents to be sold?

This was assessed by our metric AmberScore, which considers both forward and backward citations, and related citations. AmberScore has been normalised so that the average for granted US patents is 1.0 – so anything above 1 is above. In any reasonably sized portfolio we would expect a range of AmberScore values, and there is nothing wrong with this.

Regardless, the top scoring patents are likely to be much more valuable than lower scoring patents. The top ten list is shown below.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the list is dominated by patents linked to searching and internet advertising.


Number


Patent title


Year


AmberScore


US6269361


System and method for influencing a position on a search result list generated by a computer network search engine


1999


84.8


US5983227


Dynamic page generator


1997


35.8


US6151624


Navigating network resources based on metadata


1998


28.5


US6078866


Internet site searching and listing service based on monetary ranking of site listings


1998


26.7


US7269590


Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user


2004


19.5


US6907566


Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage


1999


18.5


US6826572


System and method allowing advertisers to manage search listings in a pay for placement search system using grouping


2001


17.8


US6360215


Method and apparatus for retrieving documents based on information other than document content


1998


16.9


US6112203


Method for ranking documents in a hyperlinked environment using connectivity and selective content analysis


1998


16.7


US8352331


Relationship discovery engine


2001


16.7

 

We can also consider the full range of AmberScore values, as shown in the table below. The above table showed that only 4 patents had AmberScore value greater than 20, and only a further 34 had AmberScore values greater than 10.


Amberscore value range


Number of patents in this group


>20


4


10 to 20


34


5 to 10


93


2 to 5


264


1 to 2


284


0.5 to 1


323


Less than 0.5


1657

 

As discussed above this sort of distribution is not surprising, and we have seen similar distributions for the full portfolio of patents filed by Apple, Microsoft and Google   – but does it does suggest two implications:

  • The vast majority of patents in this portfolio, like any large set of patents, may have limited values
  • Conversely, only a few patent will have high values – which places an responsibility on any likely purchaser to identify the high value patents and focus on these.
  • The history of purchases of large patent portfolios should confirm this thesis. The Nortel patent portfolio was famously bought for 4.5 billion in 2011, and then realized only about 1 billion in value. Around about this time Ambercite released an analysis of smartphone patents, and Nortel failed to make the list of the top ten patent owners in this space. So personally I was not surprised to see these patent realize less value than expected at the time.

 

Who owns the most similar patent portfolios?

This can be assessed by looking for similar and important patents, in comparison to the top 200 patents as assessed by AmberScore. This can be determined by our Licensing Potential metric, which predicts the potential for a licensing relationship for a later filed patents. A higher value suggests a greater potential, and if a patent owner has more than one patent in this list, these Licensing Potential values can be added together.

So who were the companies with the greatest Licensing Potential?

The top 10 companies are shown below. Perhaps not surprisingly Google heads this list. Yahoo itself was second on the list – note that these are patents not being sold as part of the Excalibur transaction.

Yahoo_graph_pic.jpg


Perhaps more surprising is the role of Millennial Media. Not all of us have heard of them, but Millennial Media describes itself as “the leading mobile ad marketplace, making mobile simple for the world’s top brands, app developers, and mobile web publishers.” Millenial Media was acquired by AOL in late 2015. 

The rest of the owners are well known in the field. But this does raise the question – of the patents in the list of similar patents with the highest Licensing Potential, which of these are owned by smaller companies who might be more open to selling them? This is covered in the next section.

 

If a prospective buyer missed out on this portfolio – what are the similar patents they might consider buying?

We answered this question by considering the similar patents with the highest Licensing Potential, and which were not owned by major IT companies. As you would expect the full list is a lot longer than this, but this gives a taste of what is possible.


Number


Owner


Patent title


Filing year


Licensing Potential score


US6285987


BEH INVESTMENTS


Internet advertising system


1997


185


US6324519


EXPANSE NETWORKS


Advertisement auction system


1999


169


US6029195


HERZ F S M


System for customized electronic identification of desirable objects


1997


159


US6421675


GLOBALBRAINNET


Search engine


1998


155


US5862325


INTERMIND CORP


Computer-based communication system and method using metadata defining a control structure


1996


13


US5855008


CYBERGOLD


Attention brokerage


1997


12


US6199099


ACCENTURE


System, method and article of manufacture for a mobile communication network utilizing a distributed communication network


1999


120


US6012053


LYCOS


Computer system with user-controlled relevance ranking of search results


1997


116


US5920859


IDD ENTERPRISES LP


Hypertext document retrieval system and method


1997


112


US6253188


PRODIGY SERVICES INC


Automated interactive classified ad system for the internet


1996


107

 

We expect that these patents could be of interest to companies looking to build up an ownership position in this space, but without the capital to buy the whole of the Excalibur portfolio. There are a wide range of owners on this full list, providing plenty of options for potential acquirers.

 

Like to know more?

Please contact us for further information, or for details on how you can conduct your own analysis on your own set of patents

 

 

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