The movements of IP-centric business have never been easy to appreciate. With technology patent and licensing values slowly returning to higher levels, it is a good time to revisit a business model which has been a lightning rod for criticism: the public intellectual property company or PIPCO. PIPCO is a term coined by this Intangible Investor columnist in 2013, when there were 30 or more publicly held patent licensing companies with a collective market capitalization of about $9 billion. That may sound like a lot to some, but when you look at the largest patent licensing company, Qualcomm, whose market cap is currently $136 billion, you realize almost everyone else in this group is or was relatively small, typically a micro-cap, with a market value under $1 billion. These companies’ lack of size, unpredictable quarterly revenue and attractive but unpredictable assets positioned them below the radar of most institutional investors. When it comes to weathering financial storms, like ocean-going vessels, sizes matters.
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