After years of skepticism about Avistar’s patent licensing and litigation pursuits, I feel obligated to express admiration for Avistar’s transitioning away from those pursuits, as announced last week: Avistar Communications Monetizes Its Patent Portfolio and Closes Transaction with Intellectual Ventures Management, LLC.
My skepticism dates back to first reading some of the patents in 2004 and the press releases Avistar produced regarding Microsoft’s requests for re-examination of some of the patents (see public display of dis-affection: Avistar patents & Microsoft and AVSR vs. MSFT: numbers of patents or patent numbers?).
In hindsight, it seems that Avistar chose to change course about the time that it brought Bob Kirk in as CEO last July. After that time, Avistar said little publicly about the patents, seemingly not saying anything about U.S. PTO actions or licensing progress. January 19, two days before the Intellectual Ventures transaction, Avistar sold a license to Skype for $3M. If this had happened a couple of years ago, there would likely have been significant publicity. The only Avistar publicity about the Skype transaction appears to be the SEC 8-K filing.
In the January 26 press release, Bob Kirk is quoted as saying “This also removes what has been a significant distraction for the team and our operation in general, while providing us the capital to more aggressively invest in our business.”
It is difficult to say more without speculation. Avistar had announced licenses with many potential licensees, but, as far as I can tell, had not succeeded in negotiating licenses with Cisco, Hewlett-Packard or Microsoft — it is hard to imagine easy negotiations with those companies. I find it easier to imagine that those companies are some of the investors in Intellectual Ventures and receptive to this latest news. [Update February 26: Verizon Patent Case Marks a First for Intellectual Ventures lists both Cisco and Microsoft as Intellectual Ventures “members”.]