Vringo, a publicly-traded patent-holding company that has been locked in infringement lawsuits against Google, ZTE, (TechCrunch owner) AOL and others, today announced that it has sold off the last remaining assets of its mobile business that were not directly related to those patent suits, throwing its hat into the ring as a full-on patent chaser.
Infomedia Services, a UK-based company that provides CRM and mobile monetizing platforms to third parties, is buying Vringo’s “video ringtone,” Facetone and other mobile products, existing mobile partnerships, and a portfolio of internally developed patents related to them. It is an all-share deal, in which Vringo will take an eight percent stake in privately held Infomedia.
A spokesperson for Vringo declined to give a valuation for that stake.
Infomedia — which works with publishers like Gameloft and EA Games; carriers EE, Orange, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile; and mobile device makers Samsung, HTC, Sony and Alcatel — had revenues of $20 million in 2013 and says that included “over 750 million mobile engagements, 300 million portal sessions, 75 million billing transactions and over 5 million downloads.”
It will now add video ringtones (for little clips to play when people call you), “Facetones” (a Facebook integration that lets profile pictures appear when a friend calls, example pictured here), a DIY music video product called Remix, and a fan loyalty platform to its portfolio.
The idea behind the sale is that it will mean Vringo can focus more of its attention on existing patent lawsuits and those it may file in the future, effectively transforming the company into more of a full-fledged patent assertion entity (or patent troll, if you are less charitable).
“We believe this transaction with Infomedia unlocks additional value,” said Andrew Perlman, Vringo’s CEO, in a statement. “Infomedia has achieved consistent high growth and we believe that combining our global distribution platform and research and development platform with Infomedia’s product offerings and services will create a valuable synergy. Vringo looks forward to being an equity owner of Infomedia and working closely with the company as it continues to grow.”
As part of the deal, Perlman will join Infomedia’s board of directors after the transaction closes (by March 31, 2014).
Existing Vringo lawsuits include an ongoing search patent case between I/P Engine (a subsidiary of Vringo) and Google, AOL Inc., Google, IAC/InterActiveCorp-owned IAC Search & Media, Gannett Co Inc. and Target Corp.; a multinational case against ZTE (which most recently saw ZTE receiving an injunction on selling base stations in Germany) ; and a case against ADT and Tyco.
Microsoft, which had also been in I/P Engine’s crosshairs, last May agreed to pay Vringo a settlement of $1 million, and enter into a licensing agreement for future use of search patents.
Provisionally, Vringo has won the larger I/P Engine case, too, although without as lucrative a finish as it had hoped. The company had been asking for $696 million in damages, but in the end the judge ruled for $30 million.
There are some more developments on that case to come. The Vringo spokesperson says that his company is meeting with defendants in a settlement conference on January 22, and there is also an appeals court meeting after that, likely at the end of Q1 or early Q2.