Panasonic Pulls An Ericsson, Sells Out To (Hybrid) Troll

Panasonic is going the way of Ericsson and possibly (but we can hope not) Amazon** by selling off some patents to a PAE.  What, wait?  It must be Christmastime because I don’t usually use any euphemisms for “patent troll”.

Panasonic has recently snuggled up in bed with WiLAN, who’s a troll but are they really? Well, let’s see now, they own these guys who are about to get Ninja STAR-ed all to hell so yeah, they’re at minimum a hybrid-troll.  And by that I mean they outsource their trolling efforts to subsidiaries to make it harder for people to figure out what’s really going on.  You can run, but you can’t hid forever, WiLAN.

You have to wonder why companies do this.  I checked their stock history (Panasonic is traded in Japan) and it doesn’t appear to have gone down significantly recently; in fact, the opposite is true.  So it can’t be a panic-driven sale based on revenue, can it?  Disclaimer:  All I know about the stock market I learned from reading The Westing Game in fourth grade and watching the movie Wall Street, so my “qualifications” in this area approach zero.  But normally, you see this sort of patent asset monetization effort when companies are otherwise going down.  This doesn’t appear to be the case here, unless, again, I’m all sorts of wrong about their stock price.


Nothing to see here, folks.
She doesn’t know squat about stocks.

So why else?  From the linked WSJ article above:

 … Panasonic will assign [900 semiconductor patents and applications] to Collabo Innovations Inc., a new WiLAN subsidiary, certain patents from Panasonic Automotive & Industrial Systems Co., one of Panasonic’s internal companies.

According to my friends at Patent Buddy, Panasonic’s parent company holds over 14,000 patents.  There are about 20 or so different subsidiaries listed as patent holders as well so the grand total is more than that.  To assign only 900 of them is not a huge percentage (less than 10).  So maybe this isn’t the harbinger of either bad news or of a wholesale change in operational strategy for them.  Maybe it’s just that they don’t want to be in the semiconductor industry anymore?  Could it be that simple?

If that’s the  case, then someone within the company just missed out on a new job title.  Chief Patent Monetization Officer.  CPMO.  You’re welcome, C-level employee naming convention people.  It could be kind of like in-house legal counsel position.  Sure, there may be times when you have to outsource your legal issues to the Big Guns, but in the case of patents, especially with the whole trolling issue getting national attention these days, why would you want to team up publicly with a company that many see as behaving badly in the patent landscape? Why not hire some awesome patent expert and pay them to help you monetize your assets all by your lonesome?  In addition to not contributing to the patent troll problem, you’ll save money.  As the idea of a CPMO is fairly new, I don’t know that we have any salary data but I feel like it’s safe to say that whatever that position may pay, it’s less than the fees someone like Collabo Innovations Inc./WiLAN is going to suck from your bottom line.

At the end of the day, this may be a case of privateering by Panasonic, plain and simple.  Companies are of course free to do that, though I stick by what I said:

Call me old fashioned, but what happened to hard work and ingenuity to “oust [your] competitors”?  Must we play dirty just because everyone else is?  Is it naive to think you have to join this type of ne’er-do-well strategy to remain relevant and profitable in today’s technology world?

I didn’t think so then and I don’t think so now.



{Charlie Sheen image from the movie Wall Street found at IMDB.}

**Though I really hope it doesn’t happen, if you think Amazon won’t sell off their patents at some point, on account of not even being profitable yet, then think again. I’m just imagining that the whole drone delivery system is fraught with patents, right?  I don’t think they think that will ever work (see subsequent paragraph), so this is probably just a ploy to get people to want to license their patents surrounding the process, is what I’m saying.

Which, by the way, drone package delivery is an idea my almost 11 and 13 yr old sons have been looking at closely in terms of what gauge shotgun they’ll need to shoot one of those suckers smooth out of the sky, and how they might dismantle it, should their aim not be true and it actually manage to land anywhere in their vicinity. I cannot image who thought those flying delivery helicopters might be considered anything other than target practice for the world’s preteen boys.

Juxtaposed, Redux: Amazon and Ericsson

Last week, I read this article about Amazon not making any money.  Which is kind of odd, considering how many greenbacks I tossed their way this Christmas.  ??  But it lead me to do a little research using one of my favorite iPhone apps, Patent Buddy.  (As an aside, how could you not love an app with the name “buddy” in the title?)   You fill in a name or a patent number and voila!  Instant information.  So I typed in “Amazon”, and what to my wondering eyes should appear?  Well, the following:



Interesting.  So we have a company that is not making any money, but has a fair amount of patents to it’s name.  (What’s also neat about the app is that it tells you who the main inventor is…in Amazon’s case, both the .com and Technologies, Inc., it’s a guy named Bezos, Jeffrey P.)  Gee, I wonder what approach Amazon might consider in the future in order to start getting a return for their investors?  I know, let’s ask these guys!!  (Hint:  start suing over patents.)

And juxtaposed with that, we have this article from Techdirt (Hi, @mmasnick!) about Ericsson.  I haven’t bothered to look up their earnings to see if they are having trouble, but I suspect they are and that’s what’s prompted the sale.  Because of the current climate and the way verdicts are handed down in patent infringement cases, they have now sold some of their portfolio to a known troll.  Proxy fight!  Let the troll take the public hit for suing, while Ericsson collects money on the back end.  Nice.

As is the case 100% of the time with articles on Techdirt, the real fun begins in the comments.   This one in particular takes the cake:


In case the type is too small on my screen grab, it says:

If you can’t kill the trolls, at least keep one as a pet.

This is exactly the sort of maneuver that made me lose respect for that sneaky Cuban, Mark.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: bullies don’t back down if you join them in the fight.  Trolls are not your friends.  The way to beat these guys is NOT TO SELL OUT.

Ericsson, I’ve got one thing to say to you:  Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

Amazon?  Don’t even think about it.

Just sayin’,