Why Is Vringo Spending $31 Million On Hundreds of Nokia Patents? Ask Underdog

It's already gobbled up potentially lucrative intellectual property for its infringement suit against Google. Now Vringo goes patent shopping to fortify an IP strategy inspired by entertainment.

Vringo’s patent shopping spree continues. First the Mark Cuban-backed mobile tech company went after Google for patent infringement. Now Vringo has acquired 507 patents and applications from Nokia for $31 million in what we'll call the Underdog strategy. More on that shortly.

Take a moment to follow the bouncing patents. Vringo’s first foray into intellectual property acquisition was the recent merger with I/P Engine, or Innovate/Protect. That company had acquired 1990s patents, which cover "relevance filtering technology" used to rank search-engine results, from Lycos last year and promptly filed suit against Google and a handful of name-brand companies claiming infringement. Vringo’s stock soared last spring when news of the merger broke, particularly when Mark Cuban invested, becoming Vringo’s biggest shareholder. On Monday, AOL settled a portion of the suit for an undisclosed amount. As a sign of the interest in Vringo, the company raised the $31 million in 48 hours, without a bank, 90 percent of it coming from three investors.

Vringo’s unlikely source of inspiration is, believe it or not, the rhyming, at times clumsy, 1960s cartoon superhero who’d announce his presence, "There’s no need to fear. Underdog is here!" Vringo CEO Andrew Perlman used to work as senior vice president of digital media at Classic Media, which acquired the intellectual property to old TV characters (Underdog, Rocky and Bullwinkle, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and others) and helped develop new movies based on them. "Our strategy [at Vringo] mirrors that approach," Perlman says. "That’s where we’re taking this thing."

Instead of making movies based on old cartoon characters, though, Vringo plans to build new products off the old Nokia patents, most likely related to cellular infrastructure, and to generate revenue through licensing fees; 31 of the patents are "declared essential by Nokia to wireless communication standards" according to Vringo.

The IP strategy worked for Classic Media. Just last month, DreamWorks bought the company for $155 million. Underdog was true to his word.

[Image: Flickr user dno1967b]

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