BlackBerry, Helped by Patents, Could See a $10 Billion Payday

BlackBerry's patents put its total worth near $10 billion, said one analyst. Another called the patents a needed "bulldozer" to reach profits.

With BlackBerry's announcement that it's open to the idea of being bought, the question of a price comes quickly to mind.

BlackBerry engineered brand-new handsets this year and spent years (and users' patience) developing an operating system that it's said is powerful and nimble enough to handle and adjust to what the next 10 years can offer. It also has a $3 billion cash pile and approximately 72 million subscribers. But its most valuable asset, some are saying, is its asset portfolio.

MDB Capital Group CEO Chris Marlett told AllThingsD that while a consortium pitching in with a cross-licensing deal might be willing to pay $2 billion to $3 billion, a single buyer might pay more.

"BlackBerry still has a good enterprise and global footprint," Martlett said, according to an Aug. 14 report. "Someone like Microsoft could justify paying $4 billion to $5 billion for the business, and $4 billion to $5 billion for the IP, which would yield an $8 billion to $10 billion purchase price."

Markman Advisors, an investment firm focused on "patent enforcement opportunities," drooled over the potential of BlackBerry's portfolio in an Aug. 15 blog post on Seeking Alpha, writing that it's "exactly the bulldozer the company needs to clear a path towards a more profitable future or a winning sale."

Investors should realize, the firm continued, that BlackBerry's patent portfolio is valuable in two ways: "a) it makes the company more attractive as a takeover target, and b) it can be used to generate revenue. Real revenue, right away."

Given all patent disputes currently being fought in courtrooms, Markman Advisors added, "One can only imagine the impact on the sector should BlackBerry announce that it is adopting an offensively-oriented patent monetization strategy."

Back in February, Intellectual Asset Management put together a US Patent 100 list of the companies that own the 100 biggest U.S. portfolios. But only 14 companies, it said, stood out for having more than 3,400 patents, an application rate of more than 13 percent and a "tech score"—a value calculated from the rate at which the patents are being cited and normalized against a cohort group of patents—of more than 0.88.

The above qualities, IAM's Joff Wild wrote in a Feb. 4 post, imply "that they are the owners of the largest, fastest-growing and most industry-recognized patent portfolios in the U.S."

The 14 named were: Abbott Laboratories, AMD, Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Covidien, Ericsson, Freescale Semiconductor, Globalfoundaries, Hon Hai, Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Sony.

The Globe and Mail points out that the IAM list was published the same day that BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins called for justice against so-called "patent trolls"—companies that make money strictly by suing for infringement of their patents.

"Patent trolls hold genuine innovators hostage, and patents have become weapons in an international technology arms race," Heins told a Toronto gathering of the Empire Club of Canada.

"This is crazy. We have to shift our resources from litigation back to innovation, investment and job creation," he continued. "That will require some practical but achievable reforms, particularly in the U.S. and Europe."