To those who follow patent news, IP Nav is an infamous company. Some websites have called it “the most notorious patent troll in America,” and its co-founder, Erich Spangenberg, is known as the “poster boy for litigious patent assertion companies.” So, when IP Nav’s other co-founder, David Pridham, realized that Spangenberg’s preferred business model was not in alignment with his own hopes for the patent system, he broke away from IP Nav and founded his own company, Dominion Harbor Group, which looks to “license IP in a responsible way.”
The reason that Pridham decided to set out on his own was that he saw “questionable ethics and actors in the space – serial demand letter sent to small businesses, large companies refusing to license their technology and other entities set up to attack patents and short stocks.”
The solution, according to Pridham, was to take a different tack. He founded Dominion Harbor based on a set of guiding principles. These include: “working only with high quality IP; being transparent about who owns it, the value of the assets, who licensed them before.” Pridham sees this transparency as important, considering his believe that “IP is the cornerstone of technology in this country.”
Dominion’s business model is intended to help both startups and mature companies protect their inventions and ideas while filling a “vacuum in the IP licensing space” as an “entity that can bring together mature portfolios and early stage companies.”
To this end, Dominion is teaming up with Monument patent to create an “IP bank.” The bank was intended to fill what Pridham saw as a “void in the market.” The company bank would target patents that are not being used, for whatever reason, and focus on tactics that do not involve litigation or demand letters, instead focusing on return on investment.
A company with a patent portfolio could deposit those assets – after they have been evaluated and curated by Dominion – into the bank. They would get equity interest in companies that would then be seeded with that IP, such as startups. Those startups would then work on a plan to develop their IP. That is a service that Dominion Harbor offers as well.
“One of the key slogans around here is ‘look at the time to IP and compare it to the time to IPO,’” explains Pridham. He notes that getting to an initial public offering is quicker than getting a patent as the United States Patent and Trademark Office can take three to five years to approve the patent, which could mean a period of a decade or more to develop a portfolio – a long time for a company to wait.
“We wan to bridge the gap, to get companies to IP faster. We companies get IP that is complementary from the bank, curated and vetted. That can help a startup get traction and can be a way for a midsized company to leverage its way into new markets. The IP is licensed in a responsible way, and the company that deposited in the bank gets a return, so there’s an upside for everyone,” he says.
Pridham says that Dominion Harbor has a mature licensing business and has already done several campaigns during its two-year existence. By the end of the year, he expects the IP bank to have between 5,000-10,000 assets in the high-tech, healthcare and oil and gas spaces. During the “soft launch period,” the bank has already been used by a number of different small companies.