Patent Deals Give Investment Banks a Boost

Wireless wars spur a bull market in intellectual property
A Pantech employee works on the production line manufacturing mobile phones at the company's factory in Gimpo, South Korea Photograph by SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Amid the dearth of global mergers and acquisitions, a handful of investment banks are finding business advising companies on patent sales. Lazard, Evercore Partners, and Barclays are moving in on turf traditionally dominated by lawyers. While global deal volume is down 24 percent this year as of July 18, patent deals have jumped in the past 12 months to $18.8 billion from $450 million the year before, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “Patents have historically been a small, private, and illiquid asset,” says Robert Heath, head of corporate development at RPX, a San Francisco firm that buys and licenses patents. “Now you have money piling in from all kinds of sources.”

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