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1. PAEs ESSENTIALLY FILE AND ACQUIRE HIGH-TECH PATENTS

In Europe PAEs essentially file and acquire high-tech patents (Computer and auto- mated business equipment; Micro-organism and genetic engineering; Aviation; Communications technology; Semiconductors; Lasers). However, if historically PAEs have been active mainly only in the high-tech sector, in the second half of the 2000s PAEs started a process of business differentiation and entered new markets.

2. PAEs ACQUIRE PATENTS OF HIGH QUALITY BUT THEY ALSO IMPLY A SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN THE CITATION RATE OF THE PATENTS THEY BUY

Original evidence based on the patenting activity at the EPO (European Patent Office) in the ICT sector shows that PAEs acquire patents of high technological quality. However, after a transfer occurs, patents transferred to PAEs receive significantly fewer citations. This suggests that producing companies whose business makes their technologies close to the ones acquired by PAEs may perceive an augmented risk of being sued.

3. AT THE USPTO ONLY A SMALL SHARE (0.3%) OF UNIVERSITY PATENTS HAS BEEN TRANSFERRED TO PAES. HOWEVER, MOST TRANSFERS OCCUR IN THE LAST YEARS.

Our recent analysis of patenting activity of universities at the USPTO shows that about 12% of university patents have been transferred at least once (including reassignments to universities, hospitals, public research centres and governmental institutions) and only a minor part has been acquired by PAEs (the 0.3% of university patents). However, we also find that most transfers of university patents to PAEs occurred in the last ten years (3.4% of transfers). These acquisitions are largely concentrated in two large PAEs that acquired about 80% of all PAEs-acquired university patents: Intellectual Ventures and Intellectual Discovery.

PAEs target patents that are, on average, of high quality and quite old, suggesting that PAEs are particularly active in the business of patent monetization but less involved in technology transfer and intermediation activities.