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What are RIM’s patents worth?

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While Research in Motion (RIM-T) struggles to regain its one-time dominant position in the smartphone market, many analysts are now turning their attention to the BlackBerry maker’s potential treasure trove of patents.

So what are RIM’s patents worth?

With a market cap of about $3.68 billion, Research in Motion values its patents at nearly that much. RIM itself has put the net book value of its intangible assets -- which includes patents -- at almost $3.4 billion US dollars, as of June 2. It has a portfolio of approximately 6,500 patents.

One analyst, whose research firm has studied patent portfolios, including RIM’s, says a $3-billion price tag for the company’s patents is at the high-end of his $1-billion to $3-billion estimate.

Research by Fernando Torres, chief economist at IPmetrics, indicates that RIM holds 3,000 utility patents -- which are patents that cover innovations that are new at the time a patent application is filed. Also, a third of its total patent trove applies directly to newer technologies, such as touch screen and software developments for its next generation operating system, BlackBerry 10. RIM also holds a few patents related to its secure messaging system and wireless transmission.

In RIM’s recent earnings conference call, CEO Thorsten Heins said the company is “in a good position on patents.”

His remarks came after the company announced a $192-million loss, or 37 cents per share, while revenue fell 33 percent to $2.81 billion.

It also announced further delays to its next generation of smartphones and another 5,000 job cuts -- backtracking from earlier claims made by Heins on BNN that there would be no more layoffs.

Rich Ehrlickman, IP Offerings president says previous patent fire sales by Nortel, America Online and Motorola Mobility are evidence that RIM’s internal patent valuation is “realistic.”

“They have significant research and development that has resulted in significant patents,” he says.

RIM’s patent portfolio is “very diverse and would be applicable in a lot of types of industries within telecommunications, not just the mobile phones, but also the technology of telecommunications per se. So, it's a very diverse portfolio that could have a lot of value to different players, companies," Torres says.

Torres says RIM’s patents would be attractive to companies such as Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia and Google, which are active in patent litigation. Last week, RIM lost a patent case against Mformation, and a California jury awarded the New Jersey-based company $147.2 million in damages.

“[They] are now in the market for those kinds of patents for defensive purposes in litigation," he says.

But would RIM be willing to sell its treasure trove of innovations? Not if it wants to continue performing in the business, Torres says.

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