What causes operating companies to sell their patents? Our intuition tells us that patent sales take place when the seller is in financial distress or the company is underperforming. We asked ourselves whether data aligned with our intuition.

We looked at transaction data for sales from corporations. We studied the financial condition of 20 companies across 41 transactions over the last 6 years (post 2008 financial crisis) and looked for correlations between a company’s financial health and the sale of patents. We used sales from corporations to NPEs as a proxy for all corporate patent sales. In the analysis, we found that 78% of large patent sales (>= 10 patents transferred) occurred when the companies were underperforming the QQQ ETF (an exchange-traded fund based on the Nasdaq-100 Index, which was used as a proxy for the market). Further, including the smaller transactions (4-9 patents transferred), the overall share of transactions that occurred when the companies were underperforming the QQQ ETF was 71%.

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