Patent values have increased dramatically over the past two decades. Evidence of record valuations has been demonstrated recently in the mobile phone/wireless communication industry. For example, in the second quarter of 2011, Novell’s 882 patents sold for an average value of $510,000 per patent; in Q2 2011, Nortel’s 6,000 patents were reportedly purchased at a per-patent price of $700,000; and, in Q3 2011, Motorola Mobility’s 24,500 patents went for the same $510,000 price (great multiples for patents that likely cost $20,000 to $50,000 each from filing to granting). Pundits often cite the meteoric rise of valuations in patent portfolio acquisitions such as these as evidence that patents are in the midst of a speculative bubble.
More recently, in the summer of 2012, the Kodak portfolio of 1,100 patents, which was initially predicted to sell for more than $2 billion, attracted bids of only $150 million to $250 million. Some suggested this was the first evidence that the patent bubble was ready to pop. However, the portfolio eventually sold months later for $525 million, or $480,000 per patent. While the per-patent price seems to have peaked, is this a sign that a precipitous drop is approaching, or has there simply been a market correction for an asset that had been previously undervalued?