Monthly Archives

December 2015

Q3 Patent Sales Decline More Than Expected

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Q3 Sales Rate Declines

Our Q3 sales analysis shows a slowing in patent purchases. The first half sales were 139% of 2014 sales, suggesting a big year for sales. Q3 shows a slowdown matching Q3 2014. We have seen Q3 slowdowns before, but this slowdown misses the first half 2015 sales boost.  In Q3, we saw 24 sales compared with 25 sales for the same period last year. Q4 will tell us whether the first half of 2015 was an anomaly.

At the ROL Group, we track the available and sold patent packages on the brokered patent market. Our proprietary database includes over 2,200 patent packages representing more than 60,000 patent assets and more than $7B in potential patent sales. We analyze the USPTO assignment database each quarter to identify sales of unsold packages from the past few years. 

Q3 2015 Quarterly Patent Market Report – ROL Group

Patent Sellers

Patent sellers continue to be primarily high technology companies and NPEs. The data does not show a strong corporate sellers preference to not sell to NPEs.

In Q3, sellers had greater success with portfolios having multiple assets. Although a couple larger transactions skewed the average to 33 assets per sold portfolio, there were few smaller packages; 25% of the packages had less than 5 assets. Anecdotally we have had brokers tell us that selling smaller packages is getting too difficult and that they continually seek larger patent packages to broker.

Sellers came from NPEs and corporates. With the split of HP, these may be the last sales we see as a unified company – it will be interesting to see how each new HP business pursues its own patent buying and selling path.

Q3 2015 Patent Sellers – ROL Group

Patent Buyers

Patent purchases split between corporations, defensive aggregators, and NPEs with Intellectual Ventures picking up the largest number of assets and at the top of the deal count list. Intel, Google and Sony all picked up patents this quarter. Absent from the list is Apple who appears not to be a significant buyer in the brokered patent market.

Q3 2015 Patent Buyers - ROL Group

Q3 2015 Patent Buyers – ROL Group

There Is No Yelp for Patent Brokers – 10 Best Practices for Picking a Patent Broker

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Clients often ask us to help them find a patent broker. Unfortunately, unlike real estate brokers, you cannot simply look up patent broker reviews on Yelp. With new brokers entering the market, old ones leaving, and little market transparency, it can be difficult to pick a patent broker. And this is a problem because some brokers have much higher sales rates than others. The brokers in the green circle bring about ten deals to market each year and have a sales rate much higher than the market (for this data set, 20% of the packages had sold). Brokers in the red circle are challenged with lower sales rates. You want to pick brokers in the green circle.

Looking at Figure 3 of our latest paper on the patent market, each dot represents a patent broker. The y-axis is the sales rates for that broker. The x-axis is the number of patent packages brought to market by that broker. The brokers in the green circle bring about ten deals to market each year and have a sales rate much higher than the market (for this data set, 20% of the packages had sold). Brokers in the red circle are challenged with lower sales rates. You want to pick brokers above the red line and may want to consider picking brokers in the green circle.

Here are ten best practices for choosing a patent broker.

1. Interview 5-10 brokers

  • How well does the broker understand the market for your patents? Who is buying? What kinds of patents sell? Is your technology hot now?
  • What are their rates? Ask them what they charge and how.
  • What kinds of issues are likely to come up in diligence?
  • Do you like the person? You will be on many calls with them. They will be representing you and your patents.
  • Ask the brokers if there are engagement terms that surprise sellers.
  • What is their track record? How many packages do they bring to market each year? How many do they sell?

You can find a list of patent brokers on our website.

2. Get examples of old packages and closed deals

  • Ask the brokers for 1-3 example sales packages they have brought to market. Review them and think about how you would react to the package if you were buying patents.

 3. Understand the broker’s and the owner’s roles


  • Helps package and sell your patents.
  • Communicate with potential buyers.
  • Help guide buyers and sellers on pricing. Coordinate any bidding.
  • Communicate with you about the status of your deal.
  • Help you understand requests from buyers.


  • Ensure that communications from the brokers meet your standards.
  • The broker is positioning the portfolio the way you want.
  • You are receiving regular updates.
  • Decide whether you will accept the offer.
  • Negotiate the purchase agreement. The brokers can help here, but they are not your attorneys.

4. Obtain an estimated sales price and estimated sales time for your patents

  • What pricing estimates are the brokers giving you?
  • How long will it take to sell your patents?

5. Understand key terms in a broker agreement

  •  How is commission calculated? Does the broker make more money if they get you more money (a good idea)?
  • What happens to the broker’s costs? Are there caps on costs?
  • What is the tail? How long will it be in place? The tail is the length of time after the representation ends in which the broker would still receive some commission.
  • What rights might you have to waive? Damages, notice?

6. Learn about factors that drive value in patents

Here are some factors that tend to drive value in patents; ask the brokers their thoughts.

  • Claim charts or evidence of use – is someone infringing today and can you show it?
  • Age – buyers tend to focus on older patents (at least eight years from priority) that have about five to ten years of life remaining.
  • Open continuations – is there an open continuation on the key patent(s) in the package?
  • Which technology areas that are hot.

7. Learn about the patent market

  • Although there is not a lot that has been written about the patent market, there are people to follow it and talk about it. We write an annual paper on the patent market; there are industry events where patent markets are discussed.

8. Set your expectations based on market data, not just anecdotes

  • Pricing, time to sell, who buys, and who sell are pretty well understood and there are free reports on this information. Spend half a day reading up on the topic, then set your expectations based upon that data.

9. Be ready to sell yourself and your portfolio to the prospective broker

  • This seems counterintuitive. You are the patent owner, should not the broker be selling their skills to you. Yes, that is true, but it is also true that the best brokers can be picky. The best brokers have sales rates twice the market rate. Spending time to present your portfolio, the market opportunity and your background will help you get the best brokers to work with you.

10. Consider your skin in the game – there is a cost to picking one broker over another

  • Some brokers are asking for upfront fees to cover some of their costs. Upfront fees are usually in the $5-15K range for smaller portfolios. However, upfront fees are not your only costs. Your patents are slowly expiring, your time and reputation matter, and you could be going with someone else. These are all costs to you.