BlackBerry's patent strategy head exits, joins health tech firm -sources

TORONTO (Reuters) - The man who was leading BlackBerry Ltd’s efforts to make money from its patent portfolio has left to join a health technology company, two sources with knowledge of the move said on Monday.

A Blackberry sign is seen in front of their offices on the day of their annual general meeting for shareholders in Waterloo, Canada June 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Mark Kokes left the Canadian company last month to join privately held NantWorks LLC, the sources said. NantWorks was founded in 2011 by billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and houses a string of startups looking to transform global health information and develop next-generation pharmaceuticals.

Kokes is the second senior executive to move from BlackBerry to NantWorks this year, following the May announcement that NantHealth Inc, a publicly traded part of NantWorks, had hired BlackBerry’s president for devices and emerging solutions, Ron Louks, as its chief operating officer.

BlackBerry also saw its former head of acquisition strategy exit in February.

Kokes declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. BlackBerry did not respond to a request for comment. The sources declined to be identified as the information was private.

BlackBerry hired Kokes in mid-2014 to lead its patent monetization strategy, as the Canadian handset maker turned software company looked to turn a trove of foundational technology patents collected in its heyday into hard cash to help augment its shrunken revenue.

In June 2015 the company announced a royalty-bearing license deal with Cisco Systems Inc, followed by others with Canon Inc and International Game Technology. In 2016 it filed infringement suits against Avaya, Nokia and BLU Products Inc, a manufacturer of low-end Android phones.

In its most recent quarterly earnings report, issued last Thursday, BlackBerry said that it had recognized its first revenue from three recent licensing deals with Ford Motor Co, watchmaker Timex Group and BLU.

Licensing fees in the quarter -- which also include payments the company receives for BlackBerry-branded phones made and sold by others -- were the primary driver of a software sales beat, rising to $56 million from $16 million a year earlier.

NantWorks has job postings listed on its website for several patent-related jobs, including for a vice president of intellectual property prosecution and vice president of intellectual property technology.

Kokes’ LinkedIn profile still lists him as leading all aspects of BlackBerry’s intellectual property strategy, licensing, IP venturing, technology research and standardization activities.

The news of Kokes’ departure was first reported by patent business media outlet IAM.

Reporting by Morgan Sharp; Editing by Lisa Shumaker