Lycos, Inc., the former Internet search and web portal pioneer, announced yesterday that it is seeking a sale of its patent portfolio. The company which sold for $12.5 billion in 2000, most recently was acquired by India-based Ybrant Digital in 2010 for $36 million. Lycos is not a stranger to divesting patents, as the company previously sold a portfolio of 8 US patents to I/P Engine, Inc. (a subsidiary of Vringo, Inc.) in 2012.
Envision IP examined the US patent portfolio currently owned by Lycos, and identified 22 in-force US patents and 1 expired US patent. The in-force patents have an average remaining term of about 8 years. None of the current Lycos-owned patents have been asserted in district court litigation, nor do any of them have a history of post-grant proceeding at the PTAB, such as a re-examination, post-grant review, or inter partes review. The company appears to have continued to seek patent protection on its proprietary technology over the years, with its most recent issued patent granted last month on April 21, 2015. Many of the Lycos patents are in US classes 707, 709, 715, and 726, which relate to data processing, information security, and data transfer methods and software.
We also identified US 5,884,038 entitled “Method for providing an Internet protocol address with a domain name server”, which is assigned to both Lycos and WhoWhere?, Inc. It is not clear if this patent would also be included in the assets available for sale.
In addition, outside of the transaction with I/P Engine in 2012, we did not identify any other patent sales by Lycos, based on the re-assignment data of its patents.
Lycos mentioned in its press release that “some of the assets have forwards citations in the hundreds”, which is consistent with our analysis. One notable patent is US 6,012,053, directed towards providing a relevance ranking in Internet search results, as shown below in Fig. 7. The ‘053 patent has a staggering 566 forward citations.
Two other patents with relatively high forward citation counts are US 6,701,309 entitled “Method and system for collecting related queries” with 133 forward citations, and US 6,944,609 entitled “Search results using editor feedback” with 51 forward citations. The remaining patents have an average of less than 10 forward citations each.
We examined the forward citations to understand which companies have citing patents or patent applications published after the Lycos patents were granted. The results are not too surprising, with Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Apple having the largest number of patents citing to the current Lycos portfolio. Interestingly, VirnetX (VHC), a publicly traded patent holding company, has 19 patents citing to the Lycos portfolio.
The forward citations indicate that a later filed patent application is related from a technology standpoint to an earlier issued Lycos patent. A higher forward citation count for a patent / patent portfolio may indicate at a high level how fundamental those patents are to their industry. In terms of potential acquirers, the Lycos patents may be of interest to one of the above listed companies which appear to have related patented technology.