As BlackBerry begins assessing its options with JP Morgan for a strategic partnership, privatization, or outright sale many have wondered how much the company is worth.
Some believe BlackBerry’s smartphone business is essentially “worthless”, with emphasis on any success being in their enterprise services and patent portfolio.
BlackBerry has 5,236 U.S. patents and roughly 3,730 active patent applications with a value estimated at $5 Billion. Though, Scotiabank estimates its value more conservatively at $2.25 Billion. Wall Street Journal believes BlackBerry has a patent “gold mine” according to the Scotiabank research.
“We have been suggesting a value of roughly $2.25B based on a discount to what was paid for the Nortel patents, given the sale of those patents occurred at a particularly opportune time,” Scotiabank analysts wrote. “Again, those patents sold for roughly $1M each and the Motorola patents sold for roughly $735K. Given that BlackBerry maintains roughly 5,136 patents, to get to our $2.25B number the patents would have to sell for $438K each or a 40% discount to the Motorola patents and an almost 60% discount to the Nortel patents.”
“Alongside about $2.8 billion in cash and short-term investments, the patent portfolio, conservatively valued at $2.5 billion, could mean easy money for investors trying to take BlackBerry private,” the Journal’s Tom Gara wrote. “Scotiabank estimates the company’s cash and patents alone are worth $10.16 per share, and with stock currently trading at $10.53, you basically get a free company included on the side.”
BlackBerry is one of “select few” with the “largest, fastest-growing and industry-recognized patent portfolios in the U.S.,” said Alan Fisch, an IP lawyer with Fisch Hoffman Sigler LLP. “BlackBerry’s technical prowess is evident from the list,” said Fisch. “Its patent portfolio represents a substantial commercial asset.”
Others on the list include Apple, Microsoft, and AT&T to name a few. “Entities on this list are patent sophisticates,” Fisch said. “Their appreciation of the licensing and litigation value of patents should motivate them to obtain even more.”
BlackBerry’s CEO Thorsten Heins has publicly stated his distastes for so called patent trolls. “This past year our sector spent almost $30-billion in courtrooms – particularly U.S. courtrooms – defending cases against non-practising entities – or ‘patent trolls’ – who produce nothing,” Heins said in the text of remarks to an Empire Club of Canada gathering in Toronto.
“Patent trolls hold genuine innovators hostage and patents have become weapons in an international technology arms race,” he said.
“This is crazy. We have to shift our resources from litigation back to innovation, investment and job creation. That will require some practical but achievable reforms, particularly in the U.S. and Europe.”
However, perhaps BlackBerry should consider ruffling some feathers to generate some additional revenue. BlackBerry has been quite passive with defending its patent portfolio.
Earlier this year, Apple was awarded an instant messaging patent for “a portable electronic device with a touch screen display [which] displays a list of instant messaging conversations including a group conversation.”
Apple’s new patent for instant messaging offers the same utility for messaging as BlackBerry Messenger. “The group conversation includes a first multi-recipient identifier and a group conversation indicia. In response to detecting a user selection of the group conversation, the device displays a set of outgoing messages from a user of the device to multiple recipients in a chronological order and a second multi-recipient identifier,” the Apple patent with USPTO states.
“The device receives a new outgoing message for the group conversation entered by the user of the device through the touchscreen display, and responds to detecting a user request to send the new outgoing message to the multiple recipients by sending the new outgoing message to the multiple recipients in the group conversation. The new outgoing message is appended to the set of outgoing messages displayed on the touchscreen display,” it adds.
This patent would likely be in relation to Apple’s iMessage feature, which is direct competition to BBM. It may behoove BlackBerry to engage in litigation against companies that may be infringing on their patents. If BlackBerry were to win, it would allow them to flex their patent portfolio with more force and drive up its value. Do you believe BlackBerry should become more aggressive with its patent portfolio?