Industry opinion on patent protection and enforcement varies considerably depending on who you talk to. Some argue patent protection incentivizes fresh development and creativity, as without it inventors would see no point in developing new products. Others argue that the enforcement of patents, and this is almost an exact opposite point, stymies innovation, as inventors (and technology companies) are having to spend money defending themselves against outdated patent claims – money they might otherwise be spending on further innovation.
Both sides of the story have merit. Both are likely true to some degree. Neither arguments really matter that much right now.
Patents are there to be enforced, and courts are there to decide whether the enforcer warrants protection, or in the case of prior infringement, reimbursement.
Some companies – so called patent trolls – center their entire operations on patent enforcement. We’re not here to pass judgement on this model, but it had resulted in something of a sweeping judgment applied to any tech company seeking to protect its IP, and sometimes this presents the nonjudgmental with an opportunity to get into a position that supports patent enforcement, that others haven’t gotten into because of their moral views, and as such trades at a discount to its potential long term reward. Anyway, we’re rambling. Let’s get to the point.
Here’s Strikeforce Technologies Inc (OTCMKTS:SFOR).
This is one we’ve looked at before, with our most recent coverage mid January. It’s a tech company that has developed a range of cyber security tools, and holds a number of patents that underpin its lead products. Readers wanting to catch up with our take on these products can check out our previous coverage here.
One of these patents covers out of band authentication. Anyone familiar with the space will know that OOBA is huge right now, and that it’s used in the consumer facing technology of some of tech and finance’s biggest names. It’s the two factor authentication tool you use when you log into online banking, or your email account, all those sorts of things.
Strikeforce took Microsoft to court back in 2015 for the computer giant’s infringement on its OOBA patents, three patents with nos. 7,870,599, 8,484,698 & 8,713,701, and early last year announced that the company had picked up a $9 million settlement as well as a licensing fee (undisclosed) for continued use of the patents in question.
Subsequent to that settlement, the company filed three suits against Duo Security, Centrify Corporation and Trustwave Holdings, Inc, all rooted in infringement of the same patents.
Now, the company has just announced that it has filed patent infringement lawsuits in U.S. District Courts against four other companies – Gemalto, Inc., Vasco Data Security, Entrust Datacard and SecureAuth Corporation.
So that’s seven suits outstanding, all of which target infringement of the same patents – patents for which Strikeforce already has precedence in place (against Microsoft, no less) that confirms infringement and resulted in a lump sum plus royalty payment.
This is what the company is looking for from the just filed suits. A look at the VASCO filing (which basically mirrors the others) reveals that Strikeforce is looking for a lump sum payment of no less than royalty coverage, and a so called ‘compulsory ongoing license fee’ if VASCO (and the other companies) are to continue infringing on the patent.
This all runs separate to the company’s product retail operations, which as we’ve detailed in the past, are underpinned by solid products and are currently the subject of a strong sales push across multiple channels.
Sure, this one will get called a patent troll, and sure, there’s risk in taking on companies of this size and hoping for a favorable outcome. Many companies have gone bankrupt trying to do exactly what Strikeforce is doing with its OOBA patents. However, with precedence in place from the Microsoft suit, a large portion of the risk is removed from the equation, and for an investor that is willing to stomach some of the inevitable dilution we’re likely to see as the company pushes to fund its legal proceedings, this one could well be worth a punt.
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Disclosure: We have no position in any of the securities mentioned and have not been compensated for this article.