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Maybe Mark Cuban Was Right About Vringo

By Rick Munarriz - Oct 8, 2012 at 5:47PM

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Vringo may be a patent troll, but it may soon be a rich patent troll.

Vringo (NYSEMKT: VRNG) is shaking its patent-rich moneymakers.

Shares of the mobile-app developer soared 20% on Monday after an analyst upgrade and favorable news in its legal battle against Google (GOOGL -1.34%).

Let's tackle the courtroom fisticuffs first. The market's been generally skeptical about the quality of Vringo's intellectual capital. It agreed to pay a pittance in March to acquire Innovate/Protect, a holding company consisting primarily of eight potentially promising search-related patents from Lycos.

If the patents were worth more than Vringo's eight-figure price tag, surely Google or another major player in search would've raised a higher bidding card. However, now that a court is ordering Vringo to enter into negotiations with Google, it's starting to seem possible that a material payday may be coming sooner rather than later.

Maxim Group analyst John Tinker -- who has a buy rating on Vringo -- is raising his price target from $6.50 to $10 ahead of a potential settlement.

According to Tinker, Vringo's seeking roughly $696 million plus interest for historical licensing and could be asking for another $700 million in future royalties. That's a lot of money for a company that began the week valued at a little more than $400 million based on his calculations of 92.3 million effective shares outstanding.

Vringo may be a patent troll -- assembling a portfolio of search and mobile patents -- but it may soon be a rich patent troll. Tinker believes that Google will either come to terms on a settlement with Vringo or possibly snap up Vringo outright, using the patents as weapons against Microsoft (MSFT -0.23%). The software giant has used patents to bludgeon Google in the past, so this would be sweet revenge.

Mark Cuban turned heads earlier this year when he acquired a 7.4% stake in Vringo. It seemed like an ironic purchase at the time. Cuban has always been a vocal critic of patent trolls, and this move was seen as a surprising hedge.

We'll see how this all plays out soon enough. Google doesn't buckle easily, but the last thing Big G wants to do is come up short in a public battle when it can just settle on the side.


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