COVID-19 has led millions of Americans as well as countless others around the world to suddenly need to work from home. Individuals, companies, and even schools have turned to online conferencing tools in order to conduct business as “usual” and not to mention as a way of engaging with family and friends. Zoom Communications, a video conferencing company that recently went public on April 18, 2019, has already seen a 21% increase in monthly subscribers. This increase coupled with its recent decision to go public sparked an interest to dive into Zoom Communication’s IP Portfolio.
A Quick Zoom Patent Overview
Since Zoom’s founding, in 2011, they have both applied and been granted a small number of patents, as seen below. The patents that Zoom currently owns fall into two primary patent classifications – the first is H04N which is for pictorial communications and the second is H04L, the transmission of digital information. Neither of these CPC codes are surprising due to the industry that Zoom is involved in. However, now being a publicly-traded company do they have more to protect?
Zoom Communications’ small IP portfolio got me to think – did other tech company IP portfolios reflect Zoom’s at the time they went public? After some thinking, I decided to look at Facebook and thought it told an interesting story.
Facebook’s IP portfolio
Facebook, a multi-billion dollar social media and technology company, currently holds over 21,000 patents. However, that was not always the case. In December of 2011, Facebook had 56 issued patents and 503 filed patent applications in the United States as well as 33 corresponding patents and 149 filed patent applications in foreign countries. As soon as the company went public on February 1, 2012, you can see in the chart below, they significantly increased the number of patent applications.
Upon further investigation into the ktMINE IP Database, it is clear that Facebook did not suddenly apply for thousands of new patents as soon as the company went public yet entered into numerous patent assignments. In 2012, Facebook bought a large number of patents from companies such as AOL, Verizon, and IBM (seen below).
To date, Facebook has been involved in over 300 company-to-company patent assignments. However, filtering the patent assignments in the ktMINE Platform by date, you will discover that less than 10 of which took place before they went public. This means that Facebook ramped up its IP portfolio as a strategic move – protecting its assets as soon as it became a publicly-traded company. The following quote is from an SEC document stating that
“Our [Facebook’s] success depends in part upon our ability to protect our core technology and intellectual property. To establish and protect our proprietary rights, we rely on a combination of patents, patent applications, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, including know-how, license agreements, confidentiality procedures, non-disclosure agreements with third parties, employee disclosure and invention assignment agreements, and other contractual rights.”
In order for Zoom to protect themselves, will they start entering into strategic agreements or transactions with companies such as IBM, Microsoft, or their new cloud partner Oracle? Will they strive to protect their technology and intellectual property like Facebook? Only time will tell.