Technicolor Prepares to Use its 40,000 Patents to Enter the Mobile Patent Wars


Technicolor, the French company that invented the process for color movies, currently holds an estimated 40,000 valuable patents in digital audio and video. Their innovations go back almost a century and have been involved in licensing deals for said innovations for almost sixty years. The longevity of the impact of Technicolor’s visual, audio, and optic patents has somewhat caused them to be taken for granted. Not many can remember a time without Technicolor, but the company is now taking proactive steps to remind us of what it has done, and more importantly, what patents remain active in their arsenal.

As smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices are igniting international patent litigation over what company is infringing on another company’s technology patent, Technicolor is literally breaking these devices apart. The company has devised a team of 220 employees whose purpose is to take apart every popular electronic device to find possible patent infringements.

In a recent Bloomberg article, Beatrix de Russe, a lawyer and executive vice president of intellectual property at Technicolor, discussed how the company’s approach has been to educate the infringing companies of how many of Technicolor’s patents were being used without permission. She states that Technicolor actually compiles photos of the actual physical pieces of the electronic device and how they are protected by a patent. This means of confrontation results in negotiations more often than it does in actual courtroom litigation, and as such, more licensing revenue for Technicolor.

According to Bloomberg,

Though Technicolor signed its first licensing deal in the 1950’s, de Russe said, ‘it feels like the rest of the world has just woken up to why patents are interesting.’’

Technicolor has agreements with “all major manufacturers” and has also started talks with multiple vendors over new devices, she said, declining to give details on who the licensees are and who infringed patents in the past.

Patent licensing is the most profitable business of the company. The licensing division had a 76 percent operating profit margin last year, helped by 1,200 contracts with television, computer and handset makers. The company’s overall operating profit margin, based on continuing operations, stood at 14 percent. Licensing sales totaled 451 million euros, about 13 percent of total revenue.

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