With Vivint this summer launching Vivint Sky, a new cloud-based smart home solution featuring the company’s own control panel and software, an announcement this week that Vivint has taken steps to protect its intellectual property with patents really is not surprising.
Vivint has entered into a long-term partnership with Intellectual Ventures (IV), based in Bellevue, Wash., IV announced Sept. 16.
The company is one of the nation’s largest patent holders in the world, according to CNNMoney. IV says it holds more than 40,000 patents in 50 technology areas. CNNMoney says they’re in fields that include health care, communications and energy.
Provo, Utah-based home automation/home security giant Vivint is now a customer of IV's IP for Defense program, according to IV’s news release. “Under this agreement,” the IV release said, “Vivint was granted rights to IV's extensive patent portfolio and obtained more than 20 patents in areas of interest to the company.”
IV says that “companies in rapidly growing industries rely on IV to provide ongoing guidance on the invention rights relevant to their product roadmaps. IV's IP for Defense program is also designed to level the playing field for companies faced with claims from competitors—a common issue many businesses now have to address. Under this agreement, Vivint can purchase patents from IV's portfolio on an as needed basis to protect its business.”
But CNNMoney recently termed IV “the world’s most notorious patent troll company.” Wikipedia defines a patent troll as “a person or company who enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question, thus engaging in economic rent-seeking.”
There have been patent infringement cases in the security industry but they’ve typically been brought by the makers of products. For example, Object Video sued Sony, Samsung and Bosch in 2011 for alleged patent infringement of some of OV’s video analytics.
I asked IV about the “patent troll” characterization, and Cory Van Arsdale, senior VP of global licensing at Intellectual Ventures, responded.
“We can’t control how other people characterize us, but we are no different than any other company protecting its IP assets,” Van Arsdale said in an email interview. “Core to our business model is developing a robust marketplace for inventors. Our latest deal with Vivint is a great example of that invention marketplace at work – a marketplace in which IV has invested billions to compensate inventors for their great work while also providing companies like Vivint access to those innovations to best meet their strategic business goals.”
In the news release, Van Arsdale explained: “Over the last 15 years, IP has come into its own as an asset class because companies of all sizes have recognized the value and competitive advantage that patents can offer. Vivint recognizes that building their patent portfolio and acquiring access to inventions in deals like this with IV provides economic and strategic value as they position themselves for continued growth.”
I reached out to Vivint to learn more about how the partnership will benefit the company, but Vivint public relations manager Jenna Cason told me the company is not commenting beyond what is in the IV news release.
In a prepared statement, Paul Evans, Vivint VP of intellectual property, said, “At Vivint, we offer our customers smart tools for simple, affordable home automation. By investing in the development of our own IP strategy with Intellectual Ventures, we have taken the steps necessary to safeguard our company's growth, and in turn, our customers' connection to their most valuable assets—their homes, families, and businesses.”