BlackBerry CEO sees company patents as key to turnaround strategy

(Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd sees its massive patent portfolio as one of the key elements in its turnaround strategy as it pivots to focus more on its software and enterprise business, Chief Executive John Chen said on Thursday.

“We have today about 44,000 patents. The good thing about this is that we also have one of the youngest patent portfolios in the entire industry, so monetization of our patents is an important aspect of our turnaround,” Chen said while speaking in the company’s hometown at the Waterloo Innovation Summit.

BlackBerry’s fiscal first quarter results in June benefited from this strategy of monetizing its intellectual property, with software and licensing revenue rising more than 150 percent to $137 million.

The gains were largely driven by two new licensing deals, one with Cisco Systems Inc and one with an unnamed party, that made significant contributions to its software revenue in the quarter.

Chen said the challenge is balancing between aggressively safeguarding one’s patents via lawsuits or monetizing them via collaborative licensing agreements.

“If you go too far and become too aggressive, you become a (patent) troll,” said Chen, who said the company was not keen on taking that approach or gaining such a reputation.

“If you want to go about monetizing your patents in a non-aggressive, legal way then it takes time, and in a turnaround time is one of the key commodities you don’t have, so balancing those two is very difficult.”

Chen stressed that the company plans to keep innovating and staying a market leader in secure communications, where the company has tremendous amounts of know-how.

“The fact that a company is financially not doing that well, or that it’s market share is not doing that well, doesn’t mean it can’t innovate,” said Chen.