Acacia Is All Set to Blossom

Acacia Research (ACRI ), a small outfit that holds major patents in tech and biotech, has lined up important partnerships, including Switzerland's Roche Group and Japan's Hitachi, in its rush to profitability. For four consecutive quarters, Acacia's loss per share has shrunk, notes Value Line analyst Erik Manning, who thinks the stock, trading at 10 a share, will soon outpace the market.

Acacia's CombiMatrix unit is its crown jewel, says Manning. It makes customized biochips used, among others things, in detecting bio-warfare agents such as bacillus spores--similar to anthrax. Acacia Chairman and CEO Paul Ryan says the biochips are being developed through grants from the Defense Dept. to produce an ultrasensitive handheld system for detecting chemical-warfare agents. CombiMatrix has linked up with Roche, a major maker of diagnostic products, to develop genetic-testing tools for major diseases.

On the tech side, Acacia is talking to AT&T and AOL Time Warner about licensing Acacia's audio-video patents in distributing programs by computer, TV, and satellite. The patent covers video-on-demand services that some companies, such as AOL, already provide, says Ryan. Acacia also holds the patents for the so-called V-chip device, which blanks out specific TV programs for viewers. Acacia has pacts with leading TV makers, including Sony and Mitsubishi, on the V-chips. If Acacia succeeds in forming solid partnerships based on its patent on video-on-demand technology, "it would pull in huge licensing fees," says Ryan.

Corrections and Clarifications "Acacia is all set to blossom" (Inside Wall Street, Dec. 31) should have said Acacia Research has pacts with leading TV makers, "except for Sony and Mitsubishi," rather than "including Sony and Mitsubishi."

By Gene G. Marcial

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