WiLAN, the Ottawa-based company has decided to move toward the ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ sector and beyond the tradition intellectual property and patent licensing role it has played in the market with the purchase of International Road Dynamics for a whopping $63.5 million.
In the past the patent and intellectual property company has made money by acquiring technology patents and licensing them to other firms. The practice lacked growth opportunities, which drove WiLAN to decrease the practice.
According to the company, the patent licensing business has made it difficult to predict growth trends. Due to a number of contested patents that resulted in court battles with unpredictable results the company has been unable to predict growth patterns. This also made for wild fluctuations in revenue quarter-to-quarter, as well as year-to-year.
On a positive note, the patent licensing company has amassed a great amount of cash, totaling $1431.1 million at the end of last year. WiLAN used some of the cash to acquire International Road Dynamics.
Other changes to the company include a name change. WiLAN has now become Quarterhill. The move to officially change its name was announced in June of 2017.
CEO Jim Skippen has stepped down and WiLAN’s former chief financial officer Shaun McEwan takes over as interim CEO.
Mr. Skippen, who is a patent lawyer by trade, will remain with the company as executive chairman until his retirement in 2018.
Due to the change in the direction the company is taking the patent lawyer’s background no longer fits directly with the company’s objectives. Mr. Skippen said in a press release that he agreed with the decision and the direction the company was taking fell in line with his plans to retire.
The board unanimously asked the patent lawyer, Mr. Skippen to stay on as a Board member, to which the patent lawyer agreed.
“When Jim arrived at WiLAN, it had largely stopped operations. There was a serious question before Jim joined as to whether WiLAN could continue as a viable going concern since WiLAN had almost no cash, no permanent employees, and no ongoing revenues or backlog,” said Paul McCarten, Chairman on WiLAN’s Board.
“Today it has a much higher share price and market capitalization, a significant intellectual property portfolio, a strong balance sheet and significant backlog. There is no doubt that WiLAN is a much stronger company than when Jim arrived,” pointed out McCarten.
Company leaders believe that the acquisition is a step in the right direction for the company and that it stands to ‘take off’ into the industrial space.
The patent lawyer, Mr. Skippen had led the intellectual property company for more than nine years.
Under Mr. Skippen’s leadership, WiLAN achieved many notable successes including:
- Increasing WiLAN’s cash position from less than $1 Million CDN to more than $140 Million CDN
- Signed license agreements with more than 300 companies worth in excess of $850 Million CDN
- Increasing WiLAN’s market capitalization from under $30 Million CDN to over $330 Million CDN
- Increasing WiLAN’s patent portfolio from less than ten patents to over ten thousand patents
- Introducing a dividend which has been increased six times
- Attracting more than 40 portfolios from many partner companies
- Increasing WiLAN’s staff complement from one (himself) to 66 employees
The newest acquirement under the patent lawyer’s leadership, International Road Dynamics is based in Saskatoon and has offices in the United States and overseas.
The data generated and collected through the system that manages over 16,000 roads through its proprietary system is an extremely valuable analytics tool. The value of the data continues to rise as more is collected.
According to McEwan in an interview with the Ontario Business Journal, International Road Dynamics has a very strong portfolio of more than 80 pending and issued patents. The quality and depth of the portfolio is exceptional. The patent portfolio promises to bring up the overall patent strength of WiLAN.
Furthermore, due to the diligence of patent lawyers, as well as thorough work done by the International Road Dynamics team, the patent protection of the 80 pending and issued patents is strong. Patent lawsuits are not expected to arise from the existing portfolio of patents.
WiLAN began restructuring in October 2015. The patent-licensing company announced that it would spin off its research and development unit and cut its dividend shareholders. The restructuring of the company affected 30 percent of the WiLAN’s workforce. A shift in the business focus was essential in the company’s restructuring efforts. The company decided that instead of owning patents directly it would focus on licensing patent portfolios owned by other companies and providing turnkey solutions for companies to monetize their patents.
That same year the WiLAN announced that it had gained a new portfolio of 7,000 patents in technology related to access memory, flash memory, semiconductor manufacturing, and other technologies.
WiLAN has been extremely successful specializing in licensing companies and unlocking the value of intellectual property by managing and licensing their patent portfolios.
It operates in a variety of markets including automotive, digital television, Internet, medical, and wireless communication technologies.
Founded in 1992, WiLAN is listed on the TSX and NASDAQ and is included in the S&P/TSX Dividend and Dividend Aristocrats Indexes.
**The information provided herein is a general background of intellectual property law concepts, does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Bhole IP Law, and the author, make no express or implied representations or warranties in respect of the information, including but not limited to the accuracy of the information. Note that while Bhole IP Law is a firm of Canadian lawyers authorized to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, we are not U.S. lawyers nor lawyers in any other jurisdiction. As such, other foreign counsel may need to be consulted for U.S. or foreign legal matters.**