Acacia Research Corporation licenses large corporate patent portfolios and makes money by negotiated licenses or litigated settlements. An article in Corp. Counsel, Dec. 2010 at 59, describes some of the publicly traded company’s deals, such as with the Japanese software company Access Co. Ltd., Renesas Electronics Corp., and several others (See my post of Sept. 30, 2010: Paul Ryan, Acacia CEO, among 25 honorees.). The website of Acacia claims that its subsidiaries control more than 160 patent portfolios. William Boice, a partner at Kilpatrick Stockton, shows a slide that credits Acacia’s subsidiaries with having brought over 200 lawsuits.
My take from all this goes to a likely change in work for in-house patent lawyers. They take part in decisions to abandon patent protection (See my post of Dec. 8, 2010: patent pare downs.). But then they may need to work on a deal to transfer rights to those patents on to a third party. Patents have value not just defensively, to exclude others from using your idea, but also as a source of revenue.
An alternative, as explained by Boice, is to join a defensive patent aggregation. Examples of those include Allied Security, Intellectual Ventures, and RPX Corporation (See my post of March 27, 2009: secondary market for patents.).