Summary: Acacia turns out to have been the party behind ACCESS patents which had Microsoft pay Acacia just shortly after its patent lawsuits against Linux
THE UNIQUE patent troll known as Acacia (Microsoft passes Acacia some money and staff on occasions) has just published this press release with details about its revenue. Acacia has sued Linux for about 3 years now and there was recently a Red Hat settlement [1, 2] to be celebrated by the mobbyists who openly attack Red Hat and promote software patents. Not so long ago we also saw Microsoft paying Acacia more money [1, 2]. What we did not know at the time is that Acacia took the Palmsource/ACCESS patents from ACCESS, so maybe The Register was not entirely wrong after all (we thought it was way off target, based on the press release).
According to this new article from Law.com, Acacia had a relationship with ACCESS (which employed bullies who harmed GNU/Linux) and Microsoft just handed them money.
Only three years ago it looked as if Acacia Research, the largest publicly traded patent-holding company, was no hot prospect for investors, even as its litigation-heavy style of patent enforcement—sometimes derided as “patent trolling”—was being embraced by legions of newcomers to the patent business.
At that point, the company had just tried its first infringement case in front of a jury, suffering a rare defense win as a panel of East Texas citizens invalidated the Acadia patent being asserted. (In 2007, defense wins in East Texas were still a rare occurence.)
This week, though, Acacia is flying high, releasing new financial-performance figures that suggest the company isn’t headed for the dustbin of history anytime soon. After not having been profitable since it went public in 2002, Acacia crossed that barrier earlier this year. Now, its just-published results for the third quarter of 2010 prove two things—first, pure patent enforcement can be a moneymaking business for investors as well as for lawyers—and second, that business can scale up into something big.
One key to Acacia’s newfound success, which far surpassed Wall Street analysts’ expectations: licensing large corporate patent portfolios. Most recently, Acacia took charge of a large portfolio owned by Japanese software company Access Co. Ltd. The portfolio includes patents that originated at Bell Labs, as well as patents acquired by Access when it purchased Palmsource, a Palm Inc. spinoff, in 2005.
The biggest driver behind Acacia’s third quarter windfall was when it licensed that Access portfolio to Microsoft—a huge licensing deal that didn’t even require the filing of a lawsuit. (The sum is confidential, but an analyst with Craig Hallum Capital Group estimates that the deal involved Microsoft paying around $37 million.)
$37 million is a lot of money, no doubt. It sure covers the expenses of the lawsuits against Red Hat, for example, easily in fact.
To summarise, it was Acacia which used the ACCESS patent portfolio to get paid by Microsoft, which also has some former employees in Acacia. This patent troll is legally/litigiously attacking Linux. Not a nice company to be in. Follow the money. █