10-K 1 actg2015123110-k.htm 10-K 10-K




UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
____________________ 

FORM 10-K

x  ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2015

OR

  o  TRANSACTION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
FOR THE TRANSITION PERIOD FROM            TO           .

Commission File Number 0-26068
____________________
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
 
DELAWARE
95-4405754
(State or other jurisdiction of
(I.R.S. Employer
incorporation organization)
Identification No.)
 
 
520 NEWPORT CENTER DRIVE,
 
NEWPORT BEACH, CA
92660
(Address of principal executive offices)
(Zip Code)

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (949) 480-8300

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
 
Title of Each Class
 Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered
Common Stock, $0.001 par value
The NASDAQ Stock Market, LLC

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
____________________

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities
Act.   Yes £ No R
   
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.  Yes £  No  R

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to filing requirements for the past 90 days.   Yes R  No £

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T(§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).   Yes R No £

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.  R

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company.  See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer     £
  
      Accelerated filer R
  
Non-accelerated filer    £ (Do not check if a smaller reporting company)
 
      Smaller reporting company    £
 
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).   Yes  £  No  R

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2015, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, computed by reference to the last sale price of the registrant’s common stock as reported by The Nasdaq Global Select Market on such date, was approximately $437,867,000. This computation assumes that all executive officers and directors are affiliates of the registrant. Such assumption should not be deemed conclusive for any other purpose.
As of March 11, 2016, 50,458,905 shares of common stock were issued and outstanding.
 
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
 
In accordance with General Instruction G(3) to Form 10-K, portions of the registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement on Schedule 14A for its Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be filed with the Commission within 120 days after the close of the fiscal year covered by this Annual Report on Form 10-K are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Only those portions of the proxy statement that are specifically incorporated by reference herein shall constitute a part of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.






ACACIA RESEARCH CORPORATION
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2015
TABLE OF CONTENTS

 
 
Page
PART I
 
 
 
Item 1.
Item 1A.
Item 1B.  
Item 2.
Item 3.
Item 4.
 
 
 
 
 
 
PART II
 
 
 
Item 5.
Item 6.
Item 7.
Item 7A.
Item 8.
Item 9.
Item 9A.
Item 9B.
 
 
 
 
 
 
PART III
 
 
 
Item 10.
Item 11.
Item 12.
Item 13.
Item 14.
 
 
 
 
 
 
PART IV
 
 
 
Item 15.


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PART I

CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

As used in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, “we,” “us” and “our” refer to Acacia Research Corporation and/or its wholly and majority-owned operating subsidiaries.  All patent portfolio investments, development, licensing and enforcement activities are conducted solely by certain of our wholly owned operating subsidiaries.

This Annual Report on Form 10-K, or the annual report, contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, which include, without limitation, statements about our future business operations and results, our strategies and competition, and other forward-looking statements included in this annual report. Such statements may be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “believe,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “continue,” or similar terms, variations of such terms or the negative of such terms. Such statements are based on management’s current expectations and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. Such statements address future events and conditions concerning earnings, capital expenditures, litigation, competition, regulatory matters, stock price volatility, liquidity and capital resources and accounting matters. Actual results in each case could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements by reason of factors such as future economic conditions, legislative, regulatory and competitive developments in markets in which we and our subsidiaries operate, and other circumstances affecting anticipated revenues and costs, as more fully disclosed in our discussion of “Risk Factors” in Item 1A of Part I of this annual report. We expressly disclaim any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in our expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based. Additional factors that could cause such results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements are set forth in connection with the forward-looking statements.


ITEM 1.  BUSINESS

General

Our operating subsidiaries partner with inventors and patent owners, applying our legal and technology expertise to patent assets to unlock the financial value in their patented inventions. We are an intermediary in the patent marketplace, bridging the gap between invention and application, facilitating efficiency and delivering monetary rewards to patent owners.

Our operating subsidiaries generate revenues and related cash flows from the granting of intellectual property rights for the use of patented technologies that our operating subsidiaries control or own. Our operating subsidiaries assist patent owners with the prosecution and development of their patent portfolios, the protection of their patented inventions from unauthorized use, the generation of licensing revenue from users of their patented technologies and, where necessary, with the enforcement against unauthorized users of their patented technologies through the filing of patent infringement litigation. Currently, on a consolidated basis, our operating subsidiaries own or control the rights to multiple patent portfolios, which include U.S. patents and certain foreign counterparts, covering technologies used in a wide variety of industries.

We are a leader in licensing and enforcing patented technologies and have established a proven track record of licensing success with over 1,490 license agreements executed to date, across 185 patent portfolio licensing and enforcement programs. To date, we have generated gross licensing revenue of approximately $1.2 billion, and have returned more than $703 million to our patent partners.

Other
 
We were originally incorporated in California in January 1993 and reincorporated in Delaware in December 1999. Our website address is www.acaciaresearch.com. Reference in this annual report to this website address does not constitute incorporation by reference of the information contained on the website. We make our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the SEC, including our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, other reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act, and amendments to the foregoing reports, available free of charge on or through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file these reports with, or furnish such reports to, the SEC. In addition, we post the following information on our website:
 
our corporate code of conduct, our code of conduct for our board of directors and our fraud policy; 

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charters for our audit committee, nominating and corporate governance committee, disclosure committee and compensation committee; and
applicable dividend related tax forms.
 
The public may read and copy any materials that we file with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20549. The public may obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330.
  
Also, the SEC maintains an Internet website that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers, including us, that file electronically with the SEC. The public can obtain any documents that we file with the SEC at http://www.sec.gov.

Patent Licensing and Enforcement Business

Our operating subsidiaries invest in, license and enforce patented technologies. Our operating subsidiaries partner with inventors and patent owners, applying our legal and technology expertise to patent assets to unlock the financial value in their patented inventions. We are an intermediary in the patent marketplace, bridging the gap between invention and application, facilitating efficiency and delivering monetary rewards to patent owners.

Our operating subsidiaries generate revenues and related cash flows from the granting of intellectual property rights for the use of patented technologies that our operating subsidiaries control or own. Our operating subsidiaries assist patent owners with the prosecution and development of their patent portfolios, the protection of their patented inventions from unauthorized use, the generation of licensing revenue from users of their patented technologies and, where necessary, with the enforcement against unauthorized users of their patented technologies through the filing of patent infringement litigation.

Refer to the section entitled “Patented Technologies” below for a partial summary of patent portfolios owned or controlled by certain of our operating subsidiaries.

Patents are an important asset class worldwide. Due to legislative and regulatory changes, licensing and enforcing patents has become increasingly difficult for patent holders, necessitating an experienced, well-capitalized, licensing partner. We focus solely on the patent marketplace, and have emerged as a leading outsource patent licensing and enforcement company for patent owners that have made the important choice to outsource their patent licensing and enforcement activities.

We are a leader in patent licensing and enforcement and our operating subsidiaries have established a proven track record of licensing success with more than 1,490 license agreements executed to date. On a consolidated basis, to date, we have generated revenues from 185 patent portfolio licensing and enforcement programs. Our professional staff includes in-house patent attorneys, licensing executives, engineers and business development executives.

We partner with the disenfranchised patent owner, including individual inventors, universities, and large multi-national corporations in the technology, medical technology, energy, and industrial sectors. A disenfranchised patent owner owns patents that are being infringed by third-parties in connection with the design, manufacture, use, or distribution of products and/or services, but is not receiving fair compensation for the unauthorized use of his or her patented inventions by those third-parties. We strive to reward inventors and patent owners for their creative technological contributions. We also partner with patent owners, including individual inventors, universities, and domestic and multi-national corporations who may have limited internal resources and/or expertise to effectively address the unauthorized use of their patented technologies, and those that are seeking to effectively and efficiently monetize their portfolio of patented technologies on an outsourced basis. In a typical arrangement, our operating subsidiary will partner with a patent portfolio owner, acquiring rights in the patent portfolio or acquiring the patent portfolio outright, and in exchange, the original patent portfolio owner receives (i) a percentage of our operating subsidiary’s net recoveries from the licensing and enforcement of the patent portfolio, which we refer to as our Partnering Model, or (ii) an upfront payment for the purchase of the patent portfolio rights or the patent portfolio, which we refer to as our Purchasing Model, or (iii) a combination of the two, which we refer to as our Hybrid Partnering Model.

Under U.S. law, a patent owner has the right to exclude others from making, selling or using their patented invention. A third-party infringes a patent by making, offering for sale, selling, or using a patented invention without a license from the patent owner. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, infringers are generally unwilling, at least initially, to negotiate or pay reasonable license fees for their unauthorized use of third-party patents and will typically fight any allegations of patent infringement. Inventors and/or patent holders without sufficient legal, financial and/or expert technical resources to bring and continue the pursuit of costly and complex patent infringement actions are often blatantly ignored.

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As a result of the common reluctance of patent infringers to negotiate and ultimately take a patent license for the use of patented technologies without at least the threat of legal action, patent licensing and enforcement often begins with the filing of patent enforcement litigation. However, most patent infringement litigation settles out of court at amounts that are related to the strength of the patent and the value of the invention in the infringer’s products or services. We execute agreements that grant rights in our patents to users of our patented technologies. Our agreements can be negotiated without the filing of patent litigation, or negotiated in the shadow of ongoing patent litigation, depending on the specific facts and circumstances.

Patents are a complex and highly technical subject area. Our professionals actively seek to identify high-quality but undervalued patent portfolios in a variety of industries. We combine our legal expertise, technology expertise, and our extensive knowledge of, and experience in, the patent licensing ecosystem, to continually uncover important patent assets and bring needed proficiency to patent licensing and enforcement.

Our partnership with patent owners is the cornerstone of our operating subsidiaries’ corporate strategy. We assume all responsibility for advancing operational expenses while pursuing a patent licensing and enforcement program, and then share net licensing revenue with our patent partners as that program matures, on a pre-arranged and negotiated basis. We may also provide upfront capital to the patent owner as an advance against future licensing revenue. We are a principal in the licensing and enforcement effort, with our operating subsidiaries obtaining control of the rights in the patent portfolio, or control of the patent portfolio outright.

Business Model and Strategy - Overview

We have the flexibility to structure arrangements in a number of ways to address the needs and specific sets of circumstances presented by each of our unique patent partners, examples of which include the following:


Partnering Model:

50/50 net profit sharing of revenue after legal costs and other licensing and enforcement costs. Profit sharing percentages can vary.
Typical partners include major corporations, research labs and universities and individual inventors.
Upon return of advanced costs, net profit revenue share with patent partner commences.

Hybrid Partnering Model:

Hybrid Partnership with up-front capital infusion to our patent partners as an advance on future licensing revenue streams.
Increases our total addressable market providing an advantage over competitors.
Typical partners include major corporations seeking to effectively and efficiently monetize their patent portfolios.
We maintain at least a 100% preferred rate of return until all deployed capital is returned.
Upon return of capital infusion, net profit revenue share with patent partner commences.

Purchasing Model:

We invest in 100% of the patents for 100% of the profits, with no backed participation for the patent owner.
Typical partners include distressed corporations and other corporations with limited success controlled by venture capitalists.


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Key Elements of Business Strategy

Patent licensing and enforcement can be an effective and efficient way to maximize the profit potential of a patent. A patent license agreement grants a third-party user of an invention specific patent rights to the patented invention in exchange for patent license fees. Patent licensing is especially suitable for patents that are owned by the patent-disenfranchised. Patent disenfranchised owners of patents are those that have not successfully converted their patented invention into a profitable product or service, and therefore, are not generating revenues from their patented inventions. The patent-disenfranchised, for example, include owners of the following categories of patented inventions:

Inventions that were so far ahead of the technology curve that there is no existing ecosystem to support the patented products or services at the time they are introduced to market;

Inventions that can only be deployed in very capital-intensive industries, such as semiconductor fabrication, energy, or medical sectors, but whose owners do not have sufficient amounts of capital to deploy; and

Inventions that, for one reason or another, including the shifting of cost-effective manufacturing overseas, are no longer being practiced by the patent owner.

Our patent licensing business provides patent holders with an opportunity to generate income from their patented inventions being practiced by third-parties without authorization. Our patent licensing and enforcement business strategy, conducted solely by our operating subsidiaries, includes three fundamental elements, as follows:

Patent Discovery - Discover potentially valuable patents or patent portfolios.
  
Assessment of Economic Value - Work internally and with external experts to evaluate the use of the patented invention(s) in the relevant marketplace and assess a patents or patent portfolios’ expected economic value.

Licensing and Enforcement - For unauthorized users of the patented invention, enter into license negotiations and, if necessary, litigation to monetize the patent based on its assessed value.

Patent Discovery. The patent process breeds, encourages and sustains innovation and invention by granting a limited monopoly to the inventor in exchange for sharing the invention with the public. Certain technologies, including several of the technologies controlled by our operating subsidiaries, some of which are summarized below, become core technologies in the way products and services are manufactured, sold or delivered by companies across a wide array of industries. Our operating subsidiaries identify core, patented technologies that have been or are anticipated to be widely adopted by third-parties in connection with the manufacture, sale or use of products and services. Patent discovery occurs when we reach out to patent holders who may be disenfranchised, or when patent holders approach us seeking assistance with the monetization and enforcement of their patent portfolios.

Assessment of Economic Value. Subsequent to the patent discovery process, our executives work internally and/or with external industry experts in the specific technology field, to evaluate the patented invention and its adoption and implementation in the marketplace. There are several key factors to consider when analyzing a patent and determining a patent’s value: (1) Infringement, (2) Validity and (3) Enforceability.

Infringement. To determine infringement, we must first identify third-parties that are practicing the invention(s) covered by the patent without obtaining permission from the patent owner to do so. A key tool in determining whether or not a company is infringing a patent is a claim chart. A claim chart demonstrates how the manufacture, sale, or use of an existing product compares against the claims of the patent.

Invalidity. The three main factors analyzed to determine invalidity are (1) anticipation, (2) obviousness, and (3) the existence of non-patentable subject matter.

Anticipation occurs when the claims of the patent are entirely revealed within a single piece of prior art. “Prior art” is a technical term that generally refers to an invention that existed prior to the grant of the patent being analyzed.

Even if the claims of the patent are not entirely revealed within a single piece of prior art, the patent may still be invalid if determined to be “obvious” under the law. “Obvious” essentially means that the

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differences between prior art and the patented invention are so slight such that they would have been obvious at the time of invention to one who is skilled in the subject matter being patented.

Even if the patent lacks anticipation and obviousness, it may still be invalid if its subject matter is un-patentable by law. Un-patentable subject matter includes naturally occurring things, abstract concepts, or algorithms that perform an ordinary function.

Enforceability. A myriad of factors are analyzed to determine whether or not a patent is enforceable, including whether or not there has been patent misuse, or whether or not there are antitrust violations associated with the patent. Due to the inherently complex nature of patent law, only a court or specific administrative body, such as the International Trade Commission, can make a decision whether a patent is infringed, valid and enforceable; however, we employ our wealth of expertise to make the best assessment possible given a specific fact pattern and set of circumstances.

We estimate a patent’s economic value by evaluating the expected value of the license revenue stream based on past, present and future revenue of infringing products or services, and the risk that a court will disagree with our infringement, validity or enforcement assessments of the patent.

The processes and procedures employed in connection with the evaluation of a specific patent portfolio for future investment, licensing and enforcement are tailored and unique to each specific situation and can vary widely based on the specific facts and circumstances of a specific patent portfolio, such as the related technology, related industry and certain other factors. Some of the key components of our processes and procedures may include:

Utilizing our staff of in-house business development executives, patent attorneys, patent licensing executives, and technology engineers to conduct our tailored patent investment and evaluation processes and procedures. We may also leverage the expertise of external specialists and technology consultants.
Identifying emerging growth areas where patented technologies will play a vital role in connection with the manufacture or sale of products and services.
Identifying core, patented technologies that have been or are anticipated to be widely adopted by third-parties in connection with the manufacture or sale of products and services.
Considering the impact of subtleties in the language of a patent, recorded interactions with the patent office, evaluating prior art and literature and considering the impact on the potential licensing and enforcement revenue that can be derived from a patent or patent portfolio.
Evaluating the strength of a patent portfolio, including consideration of the types of claims and the number of claims potentially infringed by third-parties, and the results of any prior art searches or analysis, before the decision is made to allocate resources to a patent portfolio investment or an effective licensing and enforcement effort.
Identifying and considering potential problem areas, if any, and determining whether potential problem areas can be overcome prior to acquiring a patent portfolio or launching an effective licensing program.
Identifying potential infringers, industries within which the potential infringers exist, longevity of the patented technology, and a variety of other factors that directly impact the magnitude and potential success of a licensing and enforcement program.

Licensing and Enforcement. The final step in the patent licensing and enforcement process is to monetize the patent by securing license agreements based on the patents estimated value. While we prefer to convince unauthorized users of our patented inventions of the value of the patented invention and secure a license agreement in a non-litigious manner, many infringers refuse to take such licenses even when confronted with substantial and persuasive evidence of infringement, validity, enforceability and significant economic value. As a result, often we must resort to litigation to demonstrate and prove infringement and ultimately induce infringers to take a license. We have found it effective to negotiate licenses concurrently with litigation due to the fact that litigation necessitates and facilitates an information exchange that helps both sides assess the value of a patent and make informed decisions. Also, litigation eventually leads to a court’s judgment. When a court agrees with our assessment of a patent, this judgment stops recalcitrant infringers from indefinitely profiting from the patent they are infringing.

Our operating subsidiaries engage highly competent and experienced patent lawyers to prosecute their patent portfolio litigation. It is imperative to be persistent and patient throughout the litigation process as it typically takes 18-36 months from the filing date of a lawsuit to yield a license agreement from a potential licensee. Often, it takes longer to secure a final court judgment.


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Patent license negotiations and litigation initiated by our operating subsidiaries usually lead to serious and thoughtful discussions with the unauthorized users of the patented inventions.  The result can be quite favorable with the user being granted rights under the patents for the patented invention in its products and services in exchange for financial remuneration. This remuneration is typically shared between our operating subsidiary and the patent holder.
        
Patent Prosecution. Concurrent with our patent litigation and licensing negotiation activities, we often assist patent holders with the acquisition of additional rights associated with their inventions both in the United States and across the globe. This is referred to as “continued prosecution,” and is done to further define the boundaries of an invention. It can also be effective to correct technical deficiencies discovered within a patent that may have been identified in the negotiation and litigation process. These deficiencies, if not appropriately addressed, can limit the value of patents that are otherwise infringed, valid, enforceable.

Our specialists, along with third-party experts that we engage, are trained and skilled in the areas of patent discovery, assessment of a patent or patent portfolios expected economic value, acquiring additional patent rights via continued patent prosecution, and patent licensing and enforcement. In applying our legal and technology expertise to high quality patent assets, we bridge the gap between invention and application, facilitating efficiency and delivering monetary rewards to the patent disenfranchised and other patent owners with whom we partner.

Patented Technologies

Currently, on a consolidated basis, our operating subsidiaries own or control the rights to patent portfolios with future patent expiration dates ranging from 2016 to approximately 2033, covering technologies used in a wide variety of industries, a sample of which includes the following:
Operating Subsidiary
Industry
Description
Adaptix, Inc.
Telecommunications / Smartphones
Portfolio relates to air interface technology used in modern 4G wireless networks. The patents relate to both infrastructure and user equipment.
American Vehicular Sciences, LLC
Transportation And Automotive
Patents from Automotive Technologies International, or ATI and Intelligent Technologies International, or ITI, relating to numerous automotive safety, navigation and diagnostics technologies.
Body Science, LLC
Peripheral Vascular Devices
Patents relating to apparatus for use in wireless physiological monitoring.
Bonutti Skeletal Innovations, LLC
Orthopedic Implants And Sports Medicine Market
Issued and pending patents and applications in the orthopedic field covering, among other things, suture anchors, biologics, total knee replacements, total hip replacements, minimally invasive surgery, partial knee and hip replacement, spinal implants, and surgical instruments and methods of use.
Cellular Communications Equipment, LLC
Telecommunications / Smartphones
Portfolio covers Wireless Infrastructure and User Equipment Technology relating to second (2G), third (3G) and fourth (4G) generation wireless technologies and to air interface technology used in 2G, 3G and 4G wireless networks.
Data Engine Technologies, LLC
Software
Patent portfolio covering a wide range of Software Technology.
Endotach, LLC
Peripheral Vascular Devices
Patents relating to stent grafts.
Industrial Print Technologies, LLC
Computers/Peripherals/Printers
Patent portfolio covering ink jet printer and ink jet printing technologies and other printer and printing technologies.
Innovative Display Technologies, LLC
Telecommunications / Smartphones
Portfolio generally relates to back-lighting for displays and the patented technology covers various improvements to LCD displays.
Lambda Optical Solutions, LLC
Communications
Patents relating to Optical Switching Technology.
LifePort Sciences, LLC
Peripheral Vascular Devices
Multiple patents and applications relating to, among other things, stent grafts, stent graft delivery systems and stent placement procedures.
LifeScreen Sciences, LLC
Peripheral Vascular Devices
Portfolio consists of multiple patents and applications relating to, among other things, vena cava filters, embolic protection and associated delivery systems.
LifeShield Sciences, LLC
Peripheral Vascular Devices
Portfolio consists of multiple patents and applications relating to stent grafts, and stent graft delivery systems.

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Operating Subsidiary
Industry
Description
Limestone Memory Systems LLC
Memory
This portfolio covers both DRAM and flash memory technologies used in virtually all electronic communications and computing devices.
Nexus Display Technologies, LLC
Consumer Electronics
Patent portfolio relating to high speed digital display interface technology used in industry standards such as DisplayPort and DisplayPort-related technologies and also MIPI DSI.

Optimum Content Protection, LLC and Super Interconnect Technologies, LLC
Telecommunications / Smartphones
Portfolios relate to high speed circuit interconnect, display control technology and content security used in consumer electronics, PCs and mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Parthenon Unified Memory Architecture, LLC
Semiconductor
Patents relate to the use of shared memory in multimedia processing systems such as mobile phones, tablets and other consumer electronic devices.
Power Optimized Memory Solutions LLC
Memory
This portfolio covers technologies and devices similar to those of the Limestone portfolio, as well as Solid State Drives (SSD’s).
Rapid Completions LLC
Energy Efficiency
Patents related to multi-zonal completion of horizontal wells including ball-drop, sliding sleeve and packer technology for use in the hydraulic fracturing of both tight and conventional oil and gas reservoirs.  This technology has been applied in oilfields across North America and worldwide and has contributed significantly to the growth in oil and gas production from unconventional shale formations.
Saint Lawrence Communications, LLC
Wireless
Patents relating to Speech Codecs used in Wireless and Wireline Systems.
Unified Messaging Solutions, LLC
Communications
Patent for Messaging Technology.

Revenues for the periods presented include revenues generated from several of the portfolios summarized above and other technology patent portfolios owned or controlled by us. Refer to Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Overview” for a summary of patent portfolios generating revenues for the applicable periods presented.

Competition

We expect to encounter increased competition in the area of patent portfolio investments and enforcement. This includes an increase in the number of competitors seeking to invest in the same or similar patents and technologies that we may seek to invest in. Non-practicing entities such as RPX, AST, Intellectual Ventures, Wi-LAN, Conversant, Round Rock Research LLC, IPvalue Management Inc., Vringo Inc., VirnetX and Pendrell Corporation compete in acquiring rights to patents, and we expect more entities to enter the market.

We also compete with financial firms, corporate buyers and others acquiring IP. Many of these competitors may have more financial and human resources than our operating subsidiaries. As we become more successful, we may find more companies entering the market for similar technology opportunities, which may reduce our market share in one or more technology industries that we currently rely upon to generate future revenue.
 
Companies or other entities may develop competing technologies that offer better or less expensive alternatives to our patented technologies that we may invest in and license. Many potential competitors may have significantly greater resources than the resources that our operating subsidiaries possess. Such technological advances or entirely different approaches developed by one or more of our competitors could render certain of the technologies owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries obsolete and/or uneconomical.

Employees
 
As of December 31, 2015, on a consolidated basis, we had 42 full-time employees. Neither we, nor any of our subsidiaries, are a party to any collective bargaining agreement. We consider our employee relations to be good.







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ITEM 1A.  RISK FACTORS

The following is a summary of certain risks we face in our business. They are not the only risks we face. Additional risks that we do not yet know of or that we currently believe are immaterial may also impair our business operations. If any of the following risks actually occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected, and the trading price of our common stock could decline significantly. All patent portfolio investments, development, licensing and enforcement activities are conducted solely by certain of our wholly and majority-owned operating subsidiaries.
Risks Related to Our Business
     
We have a history of losses and may incur additional losses in the future.
 
We reported a net loss of $160.0 million (includes $104.9 million of noncash goodwill and patent impairment charges), $66.0 million and $56.4 million for the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014 and 2013, and on a cumulative basis, we have sustained substantial losses since our inception. As of December 31, 2015, our accumulated deficit was $288.1 million. As of December 31, 2015, we had approximately $145.9 million in cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash and working capital of $150.7 million. We expect to continue incurring significant legal, marketing and general and administrative expenses in connection with our operations. As a result, we anticipate that we may incur losses in the future. We believe, however, that our current cash and cash equivalents and investments will be sufficient to finance our anticipated capital and operating requirements for at least the next twelve months.

 Our ability to use net operating losses and certain other tax attributes is uncertain and may be limited.

Our ability to use our federal and state net operating losses to offset potential future taxable income and related income taxes that would otherwise be due is dependent upon our generation of future taxable income before the expiration dates of the net operating losses, and we cannot predict with certainty when, or whether, we will generate sufficient taxable income to use all of our net operating losses. In addition, utilization of net operating losses to offset potential future taxable income and related income taxes that would otherwise be due is subject to annual limitations under the “ownership change” provisions of Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, and similar state provisions, which may result in the expiration of net operating losses before future utilization. In general, under the Code, if a corporation undergoes an “ownership change,” generally defined as a greater than 50% change (by value) in its equity ownership over a three-year period, the corporation’s ability to use its pre-change net operating losses and other pre-change tax attributes (such as research and development credit carryforwards) to offset its post-change taxable income or taxes may be limited. Changes in our stock ownership, some of which may be outside of our control, could in the future result in an ownership change. Although we have completed studies to provide reasonable assurance that an ownership change limitation would not apply, we cannot be certain that a taxing authority would reach the same conclusion. If, after a review or audit, an ownership change limitation were to apply, utilization of our domestic net operating losses and tax credit carryforwards could be limited in future periods and a portion of the carryforwards could expire before being available to reduce future income tax liabilities.
If we encounter unforeseen difficulties with our business or operations in the future that require us to obtain additional working capital, and we cannot obtain additional working capital on favorable terms, or at all, our business may suffer.
 
Our consolidated cash and cash equivalents, restricted cash and short-term investments totaled $145.9 million and $193.0 million at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively. To date, we have relied primarily upon net cash flows from our operations and from the public and private sale of equity securities to generate the working capital needed to finance our operations.
 
We may encounter unforeseen difficulties with our business or operations in the future that may deplete our capital resources more rapidly than anticipated. As a result, we may be required to obtain additional working capital in the future through bank credit facilities, public or private debt or equity financings, or otherwise. If we are required to raise additional working capital in the future, such financing may be unavailable to us on favorable terms, if at all, or may be dilutive to our existing stockholders. If we fail to obtain additional working capital, as and when needed, such failure could have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 



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Failure to effectively manage our operational changes could place strains on our managerial, operational and financial resources and could adversely affect our business and operating results.
 
Our operational changes have placed, and is expected to continue to place, a strain on our managerial, operational and financial resources and systems. Further, as our subsidiary companies’ businesses grow or change, we will be required to continue to manage multiple relationships. Any further growth or change by us or our subsidiary companies, or an increase in the number of our strategic relationships, may place additional strain on our managerial, operational and financial resources and systems. Although we may not grow as we expect, if we fail to manage our growth or other operational changes effectively or to develop, expand or otherwise modify our managerial, operational and financial resources and systems, our business and financial results will be materially harmed.
 
Our future success depends on our ability to expand our organization to match the growth of our subsidiaries.
 
As our operating subsidiaries grow, the administrative demands upon us and our operating subsidiaries will grow, and our success will depend upon our ability to meet those demands. These demands include increased accounting, management, legal services, staff support, and general office services. We may need to hire additional qualified personnel to meet these demands, the cost and quality of which is dependent in part upon market factors outside of our control. Further, we will need to effectively manage the training and growth of our staff to maintain an efficient and effective workforce, and our failure to do so could adversely affect our business and operating results.
Potential patent portfolio investments may present risks, and we may be unable to achieve the financial or other goals intended at the time of any potential investment.
Our future growth depends, in part, on our ability to invest in patented technologies, patent portfolios, or companies holding such patented technologies and patent portfolios. Accordingly, we have engaged in patent portfolio investments to expand our patent portfolios and we intend to continue to explore such investments. Such investments are subject to numerous risks, including the following:
our inability to enter into a definitive agreement with respect to any potential patent portfolio investment, or if we are able to enter into such agreement, our inability to consummate the potential investment transaction;

difficulty integrating the operations, technology and personnel of the acquired entity;

our inability to achieve the anticipated financial and other benefits of the specific patent portfolio investment;

our inability to retain key personnel from the acquired company, if necessary;

difficulty in maintaining controls, procedures and policies during the transition and integration process;
 
diversion of our management’s attention from other business concerns; and

failure of our due diligence process to identify significant issues, including issues with respect to patented technologies and patent portfolios, and other legal and financial contingencies.

If we are unable to manage these risks effectively as part of any patent portfolio investment, our business could be adversely affected.
Our revenues are unpredictable, and this may harm our financial condition.
 
From January 2005 to the present, our operating subsidiaries have executed our business strategy of partnering with inventors and patent owners, applying our legal and technology expertise to patent assets to unlock the financial value in their patented inventions. Currently, on a consolidated basis, our operating subsidiaries own or control the rights to multiple patent portfolios which include U.S. patents and certain foreign counterparts, covering technologies used in a wide variety of industries. These patent portfolio investments continue to diversify our revenue generating opportunities. We believe that our cash and cash equivalents and short-term investment balances, anticipated cash flow from operations, proceeds from prior offerings of our common stock (refer to “Liquidity and Capital Resources” below) and other external sources of available credit, will be sufficient to meet our cash requirements through at least March 2017 and for the foreseeable future. However, due to the nature of our licensing business and uncertainties regarding the amount and timing of the receipt of license and other fees from potential infringers, stemming primarily from uncertainties regarding the outcome of enforcement actions, rates of

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adoption of our patented technologies, the growth rates of our existing licensees and certain other factors, our revenues may vary significantly from quarter to quarter and period to period, which could make our business difficult to manage, adversely affect our business and operating results, cause our quarterly and periodic results to fall below market expectations and adversely affect the market price of our common stock.
 
Our operating subsidiaries depend upon relationships with others to provide technology-based opportunities that can develop into profitable royalty-bearing licenses, and if they are unable to maintain and generate new relationships, then they may not be able to sustain existing levels of revenue or increase revenue.
 
Neither we nor our operating subsidiaries invent new technologies or products; rather, we depend upon the identification and investment in new patents and inventions through our relationships with inventors, universities, research institutions, technology companies and others. If our operating subsidiaries are unable to maintain those relationships and to continue to grow new relationships, then they may not be able to identify new technology-based opportunities for sustainable revenue and growth.
 
Our current or future relationships may not provide the volume or quality of technologies necessary to sustain our business. In some cases, universities and other technology sources may compete against us as they seek to develop and commercialize technologies. Universities may receive financing for basic research in exchange for the exclusive right to commercialize resulting inventions. These and other strategies may reduce the number of technology sources and potential clients to whom we can market our services. If we are unable to maintain current relationships and sources of technology or to secure new relationships and sources of technology, such inability may have a material adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.

For example, in fiscal year 2015, we obtained control of 3 new patent portfolios with applications over a wide range of technology areas, compared to 6 new patent portfolios, and 25 new patent portfolios in fiscal years 2014 and 2013, respectively. The decrease in patent portfolio intake, in part reflects a strategic decision in 2013 to shift the focus of our operating business to increasingly serve a smaller number of customers each having higher quality patent portfolios. High quality patent portfolios are typically associated with higher numbers of varied defensible claims, higher revenue potential, originating from high-pedigreed patent owners and/or possessing a relatively large number of prospective licensees. In this regard, commencing in the later portion of 2013 and early 2014, we continued the shift in our focus at our point of patent intake, from quantity to quality. As a result, our gross number of patent portfolio acquisitions has trended downward. The decrease may also be reflective, in part of industry trends impacting our ability to acquire patent portfolios. For example, legislative and legal changes have increased the complexity of patent enforcement and may be affecting the market availability of suitable patent portfolios for acquisition. If these industry trends continue, our future patent portfolio intake could be negatively impacted, resulting in a decrease in future revenue generating opportunities.

The success of our operating subsidiaries depends in part upon their ability to retain the best legal counsel to represent them in patent enforcement litigation.
 
The success of our licensing business depends upon our operating subsidiaries’ ability to retain the best legal counsel to prosecute patent infringement litigation. As our operating subsidiaries’ patent enforcement actions increase, it will become more difficult to find the best legal counsel to handle all of our cases because many of the best law firms may have a conflict of interest that prevents their representation of our subsidiaries.

We spend a significant amount of our financial and management resources to pursue our current litigation matters. We believe that these litigation matters and others that we may in the future determine to pursue could continue for years and continue to consume significant financial and management resources. The counterparties to our litigation are sometimes large, well-financed companies with substantially greater resources than us. We cannot assure that any of our current or future litigation matters will result in a favorable outcome for us. In addition, in part due to the appeals process and other legal processes, even if we obtain favorable interim rulings or verdicts in particular litigation matters, they may not be predictive of the ultimate resolution of the dispute. Also, we cannot assure that we will not be exposed to claims or sanctions against us which may be costly or impossible for us to defend. Unfavorable or adverse outcomes may result in losses, exhaustion of financial resources or other adverse effects which could encumber our ability to develop and commercialize products.

In connection with any of our patent enforcement actions, it is possible that a defendant may request and/or a court may rule that we have violated statutory authority, regulatory authority, federal rules, local court rules, or governing standards relating to the substantive or procedural aspects of such enforcement actions. In such event, a court may issue monetary sanctions against us or our operating subsidiaries or award attorney’s fees and/or expenses to a defendant(s), which could be

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material, and if required to be paid by us or our operating subsidiaries, could materially harm our operating results and our financial position.
 
Our operating subsidiaries, in certain circumstances, rely on representations, warranties and opinions made by third-parties that, if determined to be false or inaccurate, may expose us and our operating subsidiaries to certain material liabilities.
 
From time to time, our operating subsidiaries may rely upon representations and warranties made by third-parties from whom our operating subsidiaries acquired patents or the exclusive rights to license and enforce patents. We also may rely upon the opinions of purported experts. In certain instances, we may not have the opportunity to independently investigate and verify the facts upon which such representations, warranties, and opinions are made. By relying on these representations, warranties and opinions, our operating subsidiaries may be exposed to liabilities in connection with the licensing and enforcement of certain patents and patent rights which could have a material adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.

In connection with patent enforcement actions conducted by certain of our subsidiaries, a court may rule that we or our subsidiaries have violated certain statutory, regulatory, federal, local or governing rules or standards, which may expose us and our operating subsidiaries to certain material liabilities.
 
In connection with any of our patent enforcement actions, it is possible that a defendant may request and/or a court may rule that we have violated statutory authority, regulatory authority, federal rules, local court rules, or governing standards relating to the substantive or procedural aspects of such enforcement actions. In such event, a court may issue monetary sanctions against us or our operating subsidiaries or award attorney’s fees and/or expenses to a defendant(s), which could be material, and if we or our operating subsidiaries are required to pay such monetary sanctions, attorneys’ fees and/or expenses, such payment could materially harm our operating results and our financial position.

In connection with patent enforcement actions conducted by certain of our subsidiaries, a court may find the patents invalid, not infringed or unenforceable and/or the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or the USPTO, or other relevant patent office, may either invalidate the patents or materially narrow the scope of their claims during the course of a reexamination, opposition or other such proceeding.
 
Patent litigation is inherently risky and the outcome is uncertain. Some of the parties that we believe infringe on our patents are large and well-financed companies with substantially greater resources than ours. We believe that these parties would devote a substantial amount of resources in an attempt to avoid or limit a finding that they are liable for infringing on our patents or, in the event liability is found, to avoid or limit the amount of associated damages. In addition, there is a risk that these parties may file reexaminations or other proceedings with the USPTO or other government agencies in the United States or abroad in an attempt to invalidate, narrow the scope or render unenforceable the patents we own or control. If this were to occur, it may have a material adverse effect on the viability of our company and our operations.
 
In addition, it is difficult to predict the outcome of patent enforcement litigation at any level. In the United States, there is a higher rate of appeals in patent enforcement litigation than standard business litigation. The defendant to any case we bring, may file as many appeals as allowed by right, including to the first, second and/or final courts of appeal (in the United States those courts would be the Federal Circuit and Supreme Court, respectively). Such appeals are expensive and time-consuming, and the outcomes of such appeals are sometimes unpredictable, resulting in increased costs and reduced or delayed revenue.
 
Our licensing cycle is lengthy and costly, and our marketing, legal and sales efforts may be unsuccessful.

We expect our operating subsidiaries to incur significant marketing, legal and sales expenses prior to entering into license agreements and generating license revenues. We will also spend considerable resources educating prospective licensees on the benefits of a license arrangement with us. As such, we may incur significant losses in any particular period before any associated revenue stream begins.

If our efforts to educate prospective licensees on the benefits of a license arrangement are unsuccessful, we may need to pursue litigation or other enforcement action to protect our patent rights. We may also need to litigate to enforce the terms of our existing license agreements, protect our trade secrets, or determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others. Enforcement proceedings are typically protracted and complex. The costs are typically substantial, and the outcomes are unpredictable. Enforcement actions will divert our managerial, technical, legal and financial resources from business operations.



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Risks Related to Our Industry
 
Our exposure to uncontrollable outside influences, including new legislation, court rulings or actions by the USPTO, could adversely affect our licensing and enforcement business and results of operations.
Our licensing and enforcement business is subject to numerous risks from outside influences, including the following:
New legislation, regulations or rules related to obtaining patents or enforcing patents could significantly increase our operating costs and decrease our revenue.
Our operating subsidiaries invest in patents with enforcement opportunities and spend a significant amount of resources to enforce those patents. If new legislation, regulations or rules are implemented by Congress, the USPTO or the courts that impact the patent application process, the patent enforcement process or the rights of patent holders, such changes could negatively affect our business. Recently, United States patent laws were amended with the enactment of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the America Invents Act, which took effect on March 16, 2013. The America Invents Act includes a number of significant changes to U.S. patent law. In general, the legislation attempts to address issues surrounding the enforceability of patents and the increase in patent litigation by, among other things, establishing new procedures for patent litigation. For example, the America Invents Act changes the way that parties may be joined in patent infringement actions, increasing the likelihood that such actions will need to be brought against individual allegedly-infringing parties by their respective individual actions or activities. In addition, the America Invents Act enacted a new inter-partes review process at the USPTO which can be, and often is, used by defendants, and other individuals and entities, to separately challenge the validity of any patent. At this time, it is not clear what, if any, overall impact the America Invents Act will have on the operation of our enforcement business. However, the America Invents Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the enforcement of our patented technologies, which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.
The U.S. Department of Justice, or the DOJ, has conducted reviews of the patent system to evaluate the impact of patent assertion entities on industries in which those patents relate. It is possible that the findings and recommendations of the DOJ could impact the ability to effectively license and enforce standards-essential patents and could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the enforcement of any such patented technologies. Also, in 2014, the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, initiated a study under Section 6(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act to evaluate the patent assertion practice and market impact of Patent Assertion Entities, or PAEs.  The FTC’s initial notice and request for public comment relating to the PAE study appeared in the Federal Register on October 3, 2013.  We received and responded to a request for information as part of this FTC study.  It is expected that the results of the PAE study by the FTC will be provided to Congress and other agencies, such as the DOJ, who could take action, including legislative proposals, based on the results of the study.
Finally, new rules regarding the burden of proof in patent enforcement actions could significantly increase the cost of our enforcement actions, and new standards or limitations on liability for patent infringement could negatively impact our revenue derived from such enforcement actions. In addition, recent federal court decisions have lowered the threshold for obtaining attorneys’ fees in patent infringement cases and increased the level of deference given to a district court’s fee-shifting determination. These decisions may make it easier for district courts to shift a prevailing party’s attorneys' fees to a non-prevailing party if the district court believes that the case was weak or conducted in an abusive manner. As a result, defendants in patent infringement actions brought by non-practicing entities may elect not to settle because these decisions make it much easier for defendants to get attorneys’ fees.
Changes in patent law could adversely impact our business.
Patent laws may continue to change, and may alter the historically consistent protections afforded to owners of patent rights. Such changes may not be advantageous for us and may make it more difficult to obtain adequate patent protection to enforce our patents against infringing parties. Increased focus on the growing number of patent-related lawsuits may result in legislative changes which increase our costs and related risks of asserting patent enforcement actions. For instance, the United States Congress is considering a bill that would require, among other things, non-practicing entities that bring patent infringement lawsuits to pay legal costs of the defendants, if the lawsuits are unsuccessful and certain standards are not met.
Trial judges and juries often find it difficult to understand complex patent enforcement litigation, and as a result, we may need to appeal adverse decisions by lower courts in order to successfully enforce our patents.
It is difficult to predict the outcome of patent enforcement litigation at the trial level. It is often difficult for juries and trial judges to understand complex, patented technologies, and as a result, there is a higher rate of successful appeals in patent

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enforcement litigation than more standard business litigation. Such appeals are expensive and time consuming, resulting in increased costs and delayed revenue. Although we diligently pursue enforcement litigation, we cannot predict with significant reliability the decisions made by juries and trial courts.
More patent applications are filed each year resulting in longer delays in getting patents issued by the USPTO.
Certain of our operating subsidiaries hold and continue to invest in pending patents. We have identified a trend of increasing patent applications each year, which we believe is resulting in longer delays in obtaining approval of pending patent applications. The application delays could cause delays in recognizing revenue from these patents and could cause us to miss opportunities to license patents before other competing technologies are developed or introduced into the market.
Federal courts are becoming more crowded, and as a result, patent enforcement litigation is taking longer.
Our patent enforcement actions are almost exclusively prosecuted in federal court. Federal trial courts that hear our patent enforcement actions also hear criminal cases. Criminal cases always take priority over our actions. As a result, it is difficult to predict the length of time it will take to complete an enforcement action. Moreover, we believe there is a trend in increasing numbers of civil lawsuits and criminal proceedings before federal judges and, as a result, we believe that the risk of delays in our patent enforcement actions will have a greater effect on our business in the future unless this trend changes.
Any reductions in the funding of the USPTO could have an adverse impact on the cost of processing pending patent applications and the value of those pending patent applications.
The assets of our operating subsidiaries consist of patent portfolios, including pending patent applications before the USPTO. The value of our patent portfolios is dependent upon the issuance of patents in a timely manner, and any reductions in the funding of the USPTO could negatively impact the value of our assets. Further, reductions in funding from Congress could result in higher patent application filing and maintenance fees charged by the USPTO, causing an unexpected increase in our expenses.
Competition is intense in the industries in which our subsidiaries do business and as a result, we may not be able to grow or maintain our market share for our technologies and patents.
We expect to encounter competition in the area of patent portfolio investments and enforcement as the number of companies entering this market is increasing. This includes competitors seeking to invest in the same or similar patents and technologies that we may seek to invest in. Entities including RPX, AST, Intellectual Ventures, Wi-LAN, Conversant, Round Rock Research LLC, IPvalue Management Inc., Vringo Inc., VirnetX and Pendrell Corporation compete in acquiring rights to patents, and we expect more entities to enter the market. As new technological advances occur, many of our patented technologies may become obsolete before they are completely monetized. If we are unable to replace obsolete technologies with more technologically advanced patented technologies, then this obsolescence could have a negative effect on our ability to generate future revenues.
Our licensing business also competes with venture capital firms and various industry leaders for patent licensing opportunities. Many of these competitors may have more financial and human resources than we do. As we become more successful, we may find more companies entering the market for similar technology opportunities, which may reduce our market share in one or more technology industries that we currently rely upon to generate future revenue.
Our patented technologies face uncertain market value.
Our operating subsidiaries have invested in patents and technologies that may be in the early stages of adoption in the commercial and consumer markets. Demand for some of these technologies is untested and is subject to fluctuation based upon the rate at which our licensees will adopt our patents and technologies in their products and services.
Further, significant judgment is required in connection with estimates of the recoverability of the carrying value of our intangible patent assets, including estimates of market values, estimates of the amount and timing of future cash flows, and estimates of other factors that are used to determine the fair value and recoverability of the respective patent asset values. Developments with respect to ongoing patent litigation, patent challenges and re-exams, legislative and judicial decisions and other factors outside of our control, may unfavorably impact the validity, applicability, and enforceability of our patent assets, and therefore, negatively impact the future value of our patent portfolios. If certain of these unfavorable events occur, our estimates or related projections may change materially in future periods, and future intangible asset impairment tests may result in material charges to earnings.

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As patent enforcement litigation becomes more prevalent, it may become more difficult for us to voluntarily license our patents.
We believe that the more prevalent patent enforcement actions become, the more difficult it will be for us to voluntarily license our patents. As a result, we may need to increase the number of our patent enforcement actions to cause infringing companies to license the patent or pay damages for lost royalties. This may increase the risks associated with an investment in our company.
Patent litigation trials and scheduled trial dates are subject to routine delay, and any such delays could adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Patent infringement trials are components of our overall patent licensing process and are one of many factors that contribute to the existence of possible future revenue opportunities for us.  Patent litigation schedules in general, and in particular trial dates, are subject to routine adjustment, and in most cases delay, as courts adjust their calendars or respond to requests from one or more parties. Trial dates often are rescheduled by the court for various reasons that are often unrelated to the underlying patent assets and typically for reasons that are beyond our control. As a result, to the extent such events are an indicator of possible future revenue opportunities for us, or other outcome determinative events, they may and often do change which can result in delay of the expected scheduled event. Any such delay could be significant and could affect the corresponding future revenue opportunities, thus adversely impacting our business, results of operations and financial condition. 
The markets served by our operating subsidiaries are subject to rapid technological change, and if our operating subsidiaries are unable to develop and invest in new technologies and patents, our ability to generate revenues could be substantially impaired.
 
The markets served by our operating subsidiaries and their licensees frequently undergo transitions in which products rapidly incorporate new features and performance standards on an industry-wide basis. Products for communications applications and high-speed computing applications, as well as other applications covered by our operating subsidiaries’ intellectual property, are based on continually evolving industry standards. In addition, the communications industry is intensely competitive and has been impacted by price erosion, rapid technological change, short product life cycles, cyclical market patterns and increasing foreign and domestic competition. Our ability to compete in the future will depend on our ability to identify and ensure compliance with evolving industry standards. This will require our continued efforts and success in acquiring new patent portfolios with licensing and enforcement opportunities. While we expect for the foreseeable future to have sufficient liquidity and capital resources to maintain the level of patent portfolio investments necessary to keep pace with these technological advances, various factors may require us to have greater liquidity and capital resources than we currently expect. If we are unable to invest in new patented technologies and patent portfolios, or to identify and ensure compliance with evolving industry standards, our ability to generate revenues could be substantially impaired and our business and financial condition could be materially harmed.
 
Uncertainty in global economic conditions could negatively affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 
Our revenue-generating opportunities depend on the use of our patented technologies by existing and prospective licensees, the overall demand for the products and services of our licensees, and on the overall economic and financial health of our licensees. Although economic conditions appear to be improving, recent uncertainties in global economic conditions have resulted in the tightening of the credit markets, a low level of liquidity in many financial markets, and extreme volatility in the credit, equity and fixed income markets. If economic conditions do not continue to improve, or if they further deteriorate, many of our licensees’ customers, which may rely on credit financing, may delay or reduce their purchases of our licensees’ products and services. In addition, the use or adoption of our patented technologies is often based on current and forecasted demand for our licensees’ products and services in the marketplace and may require companies to make significant initial commitments of capital and other resources. If negative conditions in the global credit markets delay or prevent our licensees’ and their customers’ access to credit, overall consumer spending on the products and services of our licensees may decrease and the adoption or use of our patented technologies may slow, respectively. Further, if the markets in which our licensees’ participate do not continue to improve, or deteriorate further, this could negatively impact our licensees’ long-term sales and revenue generation, margins and operating expenses, which could in turn have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
 
In addition, we have significant patent-related intangible assets recorded on our consolidated balance sheets. We will continue to evaluate the recoverability of the carrying amount of our patent-related intangible assets on an ongoing basis, and

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we may incur substantial impairment charges, which would adversely affect our consolidated financial results. There can be no assurance that the outcome of such reviews in the future will not result in substantial impairment charges. Impairment assessment inherently involves judgment as to assumptions about expected future cash flows and the impact of market conditions on those assumptions. Future events and changing market conditions may impact our assumptions as to prices, costs, holding periods or other factors that may result in changes in our estimates of future cash flows. Although we believe the assumptions we used in testing for impairment are reasonable, significant changes in any one of our assumptions could produce a significantly different result.
 

Risks Related to Our Common Stock
 
The availability of shares for sale in the future could reduce the market price of our common stock.
 
In the future, we may issue securities to raise cash for operations and patent portfolio investments. We may also pay for interests in additional subsidiary companies by using shares of our common stock or a combination of cash and shares of our common stock. We may also issue securities convertible into our common stock. Any of these events may dilute stockholders’ ownership interests in our company and have an adverse impact on the price of our common stock.
 
In addition, sales of a substantial amount of our common stock in the public market, or the perception that these sales may occur, could reduce the market price of our common stock. This could also impair our ability to raise additional capital through the sale of our securities.
 
Delaware law and our charter documents contain provisions that could discourage or prevent a potential takeover of our company that might otherwise result in our stockholders receiving a premium over the market price of their shares.
 
Provisions of Delaware law and our certificate of incorporation and bylaws could make the acquisition of our company by means of a tender offer, proxy contest or otherwise, and the removal of incumbent officers and directors, more difficult. These provisions include:
 
Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which prohibits a merger with a 15%-or-greater stockholder, such as a party that has completed a successful tender offer, until three years after that party became a 15%-or-greater stockholder;
 
amendment of our bylaws by the stockholders requires a two-thirds approval of the outstanding shares;
 
the authorization in our certificate of incorporation of undesignated preferred stock, which could be issued without stockholder approval in a manner designed to prevent or discourage a takeover;
  
provisions in our bylaws eliminating stockholders’ rights to call a special meeting of stockholders, which could make it more difficult for stockholders to wage a proxy contest for control of our board of directors or to vote to repeal any of the anti-takeover provisions contained in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws; and
  
the division of our board of directors into three classes with staggered terms for each class, which could make it more difficult for an outsider to gain control of our board of directors.
 
Together, these provisions may make the removal of management more difficult and may discourage transactions that could otherwise involve payment of a premium over prevailing market prices for our common stock.
  

We may fail to meet market expectations because of fluctuations in quarterly operating results, which could cause the price of our common stock to decline.
 
Our reported revenues and operating results have fluctuated in the past and may continue to fluctuate significantly from quarter to quarter in the future. It is possible that in future periods, revenues could fall below the expectations of securities analysts or investors, which could cause the market price of our common stock to decline. The following are among the factors that could cause our operating results to fluctuate significantly from period to period:
 
the dollar amount of agreements executed in each period, which is primarily driven by the nature and characteristics of the technology being licensed and the magnitude of infringement associated with a specific licensee;

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the specific terms and conditions of agreements executed in each period and the periods of infringement contemplated by the respective payments;
   
fluctuations in the total number of agreements executed;
   
fluctuations in the sales results or other royalty-per-unit activities of our licensees that impact the calculation of license fees due;   
the timing of the receipt of periodic license fee payments and/or reports from licensees; 
  
fluctuations in the net number of active licensees period to period; 
  
costs related to investments, alliances, licenses and other efforts to expand our operations;
 
the timing of payments under the terms of any customer or license agreements into which our operating subsidiaries may enter;
  
expenses related to, and the timing and results of, patent filings and other enforcement proceedings relating to intellectual property rights, as more fully described in this section; and

new litigation or developments in current litigation and the unpredictability of litigation results or settlements or appeals.
   
Technology company stock prices are especially volatile, and this volatility may depress the price of our common stock.
 
The stock market has experienced significant price and volume fluctuations, and the market prices of technology companies have been highly volatile. We believe that various factors may cause the market price of our common stock to fluctuate, perhaps substantially, including, among others, the following:
 
announcements of developments in our patent enforcement actions;
   
developments or disputes concerning our patents;
   
our or our competitors’ technological innovations;
 
developments in relationships with licensees;
   
variations in our quarterly operating results;
 
our failure to meet or exceed securities analysts’ expectations of our financial results;
  
a change in financial estimates or securities analysts’ recommendations;
   
changes in management’s or securities analysts’ estimates of our financial performance;
   
changes in market valuations of similar companies;

the current sovereign debt crises affecting several countries in the European Union and concerns about sovereign debt of the United States;
   
announcements by us or our competitors of significant contracts, investments, strategic partnerships, joint ventures, capital commitments, new technologies, or patents; and
 
failure to complete significant transactions.

      For example, the NASDAQ-100 Technology Sector Index (NDXT) had a range of $1,953.85 - $2,468.15 during the 52-weeks ended December 31, 2015 and the NASDAQ Composite Index (IXIC) had a range of $4,292.14 - $5,231.94 over the same period. Over the same period, our common stock fluctuated within a range of $3.82 - $17.22.
 

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The recent financial crisis affecting the banking system and financial markets and the uncertainty in global economic conditions have resulted in a tightening in the credit markets, a low level of liquidity in many financial markets, and extreme volatility in the credit, equity and fixed income markets. As noted above, our stock price, like many others, has fluctuated significantly in recent periods and if investors have concerns that our business, operating results and financial condition will be negatively impacted by global economic conditions, our stock price could continue to fluctuate significantly in future periods.
 
In addition, we believe that fluctuations in our stock price during applicable periods can also be impacted by court rulings and/or other developments in our patent licensing and enforcement actions. Court rulings in patent enforcement actions are often difficult to understand, even when favorable or neutral to the value of our patents and our overall business, and we believe that investors in the market may overreact, causing fluctuations in our stock prices that may not accurately reflect the impact of court rulings on our business operations and assets.
 
In the past, companies that have experienced volatility in the market price of their stock have been the objects of securities class action litigation. If our common stock was the object of securities class action litigation, it could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources, which could materially harm our business and financial results.

We do not currently intend to pay dividends on our common stock in the foreseeable future, and consequently, your ability to achieve a return on your investment will depend on appreciation in the price of our common stock.
On February 23, 2016, our board of directors eliminated our dividend policy that provided for the discretionary payment of a total annual cash dividend of $0.50 per common share, payable in the amount of $0.125 per share per quarter, effective as of February 23, 2016. As a result, we do not anticipate paying any cash dividends to holders of our common stock in the foreseeable future. Consequently, investors must rely on sales of their common stock after price appreciation, which may never occur, as the only way to realize any future gains on their investments. There is no guarantee that shares of our common stock will appreciate in value or even maintain the price at which our stockholders have purchased their shares.


ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

None.


ITEM 2. PROPERTIES

Our principal executive, corporate and administrative offices are located in Newport Beach, California, where we lease approximately 17,758 square feet of office space, under a lease agreement that expires in December 2019. Our primary operating subsidiary, Acacia Research Group, LLC, and its subsidiaries, are headquartered in Plano, Texas, where we lease approximately 12,137 square feet of office space, under a lease agreement that expires in June 2020. Certain of our operating subsidiaries also maintain additional leased office space in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, Houston, Texas, Tokyo, Japan and Munich, Germany. We believe that our facilities are adequate, suitable and of sufficient capacity to support our immediate needs.


ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

In the ordinary course of business, we are the subject of, or party to, various pending or threatened legal actions, including various counterclaims in connection with our patent enforcement activities. We believe that any liability arising from these actions will not have a material adverse effect on our consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows.

In connection with any of our patent enforcement actions, it is possible that a defendant may claim and/or a court may rule that we have violated statutory authority, regulatory authority, federal rules, local court rules, or governing standards relating to the substantive or procedural aspects of such enforcement actions. In such event, a court may issue monetary sanctions against us or our operating subsidiaries or award attorney’s fees and/or expenses to a defendant(s), which could be material, and if required to be paid by us or our operating subsidiaries, could materially harm our operating results and our financial position.


19





Our operating subsidiaries are often required to engage in litigation to enforce their patents and patent rights. Certain of our operating subsidiaries are parties to ongoing patent enforcement related litigation, alleging infringement by third-parties of certain of the patented technologies owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries.

    
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

None.

20





PART II

ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES


General

Our common stock trades on The NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol “ACTG.”

Price Range of Common Stock
 
The high and low sales prices for our common stock as reported by The NASDAQ Global Select Market for the periods indicated are shown in the table below. Such prices are inter-dealer prices without retail markups, markdowns or commissions and may not necessarily represent actual transactions.

 
 
2015
 
2014
 
 
Fourth
Quarter
 
Third
Quarter
 
Second
Quarter
 
First
Quarter
 
Fourth
Quarter
 
Third
Quarter
 
Second
Quarter
 
First
Quarter
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
High                                           
 
$9.97
 
$10.63
 
$12.51
 
$17.22
 
$19.93
 
$18.74
 
$18.29
 
$16.46
Low                                           
 
$3.82
 
$7.88
 
$8.61
 
$10.18
 
$13.93
 
$14.65
 
$14.68
 
$13.11

Dividend Policy

On April 23, 2013, we announced that our Board of Directors approved the adoption of a cash dividend policy that called for the payment of an expected total annual cash dividend of $0.50 per common share, payable in the amount of $0.125 per share per quarter. Under the policy, we paid quarterly cash dividends totaling $25.4 million, $25.0 million and $18.6 million during 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively. On February 25, 2016, we announced that our Board of Directors terminated the company’s dividend policy effective February 23, 2016. The Board of Directors terminated the dividend policy due to a number of factors, including our financial performance and available cash resources, our cash requirements and alternative uses of capital that the Board of Directors concluded would represent an opportunity to generate a greater return on investment for us and our stockholders.

Holders of Common Stock

On March 11, 2016, there were approximately 84 owners of record of our common stock. The majority of the outstanding shares of our common stock are held by a nominee holder on behalf of an indeterminable number of ultimate beneficial owners.

Stock Price Performance Graph
 
The following stock price performance graph shall not be deemed “filed” for purposes of Section 18 of the Exchange Act, or otherwise subject to the liabilities under that Section and shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any of our filings under the Securities Act.
 












21





The Stock Performance Graph depicted below compares the yearly change in our cumulative total stockholder return for the last five fiscal years with the cumulative total return of The NASDAQ Stock Market (U.S.) Composite Index and the NASDAQ-100 Technology Sector Index.
 
 
2011
 
2012
 
2013
 
2014
 
2015
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Acacia Research Corporation common stock
 
$141
 
$99
 
$56
 
$65
 
$17
Nasdaq Composite Index (IXIC)
 
$98
 
$114
 
$157
 
$179
 
$189
NASDAQ-100 Technology Sector Index (NDXT)
 
$94
 
$101
 
$138
 
$171
 
$167

The graph covers the period from December 31, 2010 to December 31, 2015. Cumulative total returns are calculated assuming that $100 was invested on December 31, 2010, in our common stock, in the NASDAQ Composite Index, and in the NASDAQ-100 Technology Sector Index, and that all dividends, if any, were reinvested. Stockholder returns over the indicated period should not be considered indicative of future stock prices or stockholder returns.

22





 ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

The consolidated selected balance sheet data as of December 31, 2015 and 2014 and the consolidated selected statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014 and 2013 set forth below have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere herein, and should be read in conjunction with those financial statements (including notes thereto). The consolidated selected balance sheet data as of December 31, 2013, 2012 and 2011 and the consolidated selected statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2012 and 2011 have been derived from audited consolidated financial statements not included herein, but which were previously filed with the SEC.

Consolidated Statements of Operations Data
(In thousands, except share and per share data)
 
 
For the Years Ended December 31,
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
2012
 
2011
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenues and other operating income(1)
 
$
125,037

 
$
130,876

 
$
130,556

 
$
250,727

 
$
184,707

Inventor royalties and contingent legal fees expense(1)
 
34,631

 
44,233

 
54,508

 
50,679

 
91,669

Litigation and licensing expenses - patents
 
39,373

 
37,614

 
39,335

 
21,591

 
13,005

Amortization of patents
 
53,067

 
53,745

 
49,039

 
39,019

 
9,745

Marketing, general and administrative expenses (excluding non-cash stock compensation expense)
 
27,128

 
30,439

 
31,335

 
28,426

 
22,114

Non-cash stock compensation expense (included in MG&A in the statements of operations)
 
11,048

 
18,115

 
27,894

 
25,657

 
13,579

Research, consulting and other expenses - business development
 
3,391

 
3,840

 
3,251

 
4,943

 
4,338

Impairment of patent-related intangible assets
 
74,731

 
3,497

 
4,619

 

 

Impairment of goodwill
 
30,149

 

 

 

 

Other
 
4,141

 
1,548

 
3,506

 

 

Operating income (loss)
 
$
(152,622
)
 
$
(62,155
)
 
$
(82,931
)
 
$
80,412

 
$
30,257

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Income (loss) from continuing operations before (provision for) benefit from income taxes
 
$
(152,678
)
 
$
(62,750
)
 
$
(80,800
)
 
$
81,349

 
$
30,353

(Provision for) benefit from income taxes
 
(4,800
)
 
(3,912
)
 
21,958

 
(22,060
)
 
(8,708
)
Net income (loss) from continuing operations including noncontrolling interests in operating subsidiaries
 
$
(157,478
)
 
$
(66,662
)
 
$
(58,842
)
 
$
59,289

 
$
21,645

Net income (loss) attributable to Acacia Research Corporation
 
$
(160,036
)
 
$
(66,029
)
 
$
(56,434
)
 
$
59,453

 
$
21,106

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Diluted income (loss) per common share
 
$
(3.25
)
 
$
(1.37
)
 
$
(1.18
)
 
$
1.21

 
$
0.50

Cash dividends declared per common share
 
$
0.500

 
$
0.500

 
$
0.375

 
$

 
$


Consolidated Balance Sheet Data (In thousands)
 
 
At December 31,
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
2012
 
2011
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cash and cash equivalents and investments
 
$
145,948

 
$
193,024

 
$
256,702

 
$
311,279

 
$
323,286

Patents, net of accumulated amortization
 
162,642

 
286,636

 
288,432

 
313,529

 
25,188

Total assets
 
347,901

 
536,348

 
593,393

 
668,717

 
352,877

Total liabilities
 
33,746

 
47,300

 
31,195

 
50,239

 
30,765

Noncontrolling interests in operating subsidiaries
 
3,944

 
5,491

 
6,488

 
6,976

 
2,163

Acacia Research Corporation stockholders’ equity
 
310,211

 
483,557

 
555,710

 
611,502

 
319,949

 __________________________________
(1) Includes verdict insurance proceeds and related costs reflected separately in the statement of operations for the year ended December 31, 2011.

Factors Affecting Comparability:

As of December 31, 2011, we maintained a full valuation allowance against our net deferred tax assets. Net deferred tax liabilities resulting from an acquisition in January 2012 created an additional source of income to utilize against the

23





majority of our existing consolidated net deferred tax assets. In addition, we estimated that certain of our other foreign tax credit and state tax related deferred tax assets were more likely than not realizable in future periods. Accordingly, the valuation allowance on the majority of our net deferred tax assets was released, resulting in a financial statement income tax benefit of $10.7 million during the year ended December 31, 2012. At December 31, 2013, we recorded a partial valuation allowance for certain tax attribute carryforwards and other deferred tax assets totaling $7.6 million, due to uncertainty regarding future realizability. We recorded a full valuation allowance for net deferred tax assets generated during fiscal year 2015 and 2014, due to uncertainty regarding future realizability.

For the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011, we paid patent related investment costs totaling $19.5 million, $42.7 million, $25.1 million, $178.3 million (excluding business combinations of $150.0 million) and $14.7 million, respectively. Patent related investment costs are amortized using the straight-line method over the estimated economic useful life of the underlying patents.

For the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014, 2013 we recognized patent impairment charges totaling $74.7 million, $3.5 million and $4.6 million respectively. The impairment charges for the periods presented reflect the impact of reductions in expected estimated future net cash flows for certain portfolios due to adverse legal outcomes and certain patent portfolios that management determined it would no longer allocate resources to in future periods. The impairment charges consisted of the excess of the asset’s carrying value over its estimated fair value as of the applicable measurement date.

We conducted an annual goodwill impairment test as of December 31, 2015. Based upon the difference between the implied fair value of goodwill and the historical carrying value of goodwill, due primarily to the sustained decline in the Company's stock price and adverse litigation outcomes in the fourth quarter of 2015, we recognized a goodwill impairment charge totaling $30.1 million.





24





ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. This discussion contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as a result of various factors including the risks we discuss in Item 1A, “Risk Factors,” and elsewhere herein.

General

Our operating subsidiaries invest in, license and enforce patented technologies. Our operating subsidiaries partner with inventors and patent owners, applying our legal and technology expertise to patent assets to unlock the financial value in their patented inventions. We are an intermediary in the patent marketplace, bridging the gap between invention and application, facilitating efficiency and delivering monetary rewards to patent owners.

Our operating subsidiaries generate revenues and related cash flows from the granting of patent rights for the use of patented technologies that our operating subsidiaries control or own. Our operating subsidiaries assist patent owners with the prosecution and development of their patent portfolios, the protection of their patented inventions from unauthorized use, the generation of licensing revenue from users of their patented technologies and, where necessary, with the enforcement against unauthorized users of their patented technologies through the filing of patent infringement litigation.

We are a leader in licensing patented technologies and have established a proven track record of licensing success with over 1,490 license agreements executed to date, across 185 patent portfolio licensing and enforcement programs. Currently, on a consolidated basis, our operating subsidiaries own or control the rights to multiple patent portfolios, which include U.S. patents and certain foreign counterparts, covering technologies used in a wide variety of industries. To date, we have generated gross licensing revenue of approximately $1.2 billion, and have returned more than $703 million to our patent partners.

The patent portfolio investment, development, licensing and enforcement business conducted by our operating subsidiaries is described more fully in Item 1. “Business,” of this annual report.

Executive Overview

During the periods presented, we continued our business of empowering patent owners and rewarding invention by providing a path to patent monetization for the people and companies who have contributed valuable patented inventions to an industry, but who require a professional, experienced independent third-party licensing partner to get rewarded for those inventions. These people and companies are our customers, and in many cases, components of the patent disenfranchised. In so doing, we have placed ourselves at the forefront of an emerging secondary market in patent assets under which holders of high quality patents, including the patent disenfranchised, may be rewarded for the use of their patented inventions by others, even if they do not have the capital and expertise to engage in lengthy, costly and risky patent litigation.

Our operating activities for the periods presented were principally focused on the continued investment in and development of our patent licensing and enforcement business, including the continued pursuit of our ongoing patent licensing and enforcement programs and the commencement of new patent licensing and enforcement programs. In addition, we continued our focus on business development, making additional investments in existing patent portfolios and the investment in additional patent portfolios by certain of our operating subsidiaries, as described below.

Operating activities during the periods presented included the following:
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenues (in thousands)
$
125,037

 
$
130,876

 
$
130,556

New agreements executed
63

 
88

 
120

Licensing and enforcement programs generating revenues - during the respective period
30

 
46

 
53

Licensing and enforcement programs with initial revenues
4

 
15

 
23

New patent portfolios
3

 
6

 
25



25





We measure and assess the performance and growth of the patent licensing and enforcement businesses conducted by our operating subsidiaries based on consolidated revenues (including other operating income) recognized across all of our patent licensing and enforcement programs on a trailing twelve-month basis. Trailing twelve-month revenues during the periods presented were as follows (in thousands, except percentage change values):
As of Date:
 
Trailing Twelve -Month Revenues
 
% Change
 
 
 
 
 
December 31, 2015
 
$
125,037

 
5
 %
September 30, 2015
 
118,570

 
(17
)%
June 30, 2015
 
142,768

 
(6
)%
March 31, 2015
 
152,508

 
17
 %
December 31, 2014
 
130,876

 
 %
December 31, 2013
 
130,556

 


Our revenues historically have fluctuated period to period, and can vary significantly, based on a number of factors including the following:

the dollar amount of agreements executed each period, which can be driven by the nature and characteristics of the technology or technologies being licensed and the magnitude of infringement associated with a specific licensee;
the specific terms and conditions of agreements executed each period including the nature and characteristics of rights granted, and the periods of infringement or term of use contemplated by the respective payments;
fluctuations in the total number of agreements executed each period;
the number of, timing, results and uncertainties associated with patent licensing negotiations, mediations, patent infringement actions, trial dates and other enforcement proceedings relating to our patent licensing and enforcement programs;
the relative maturity of licensing programs during the applicable periods;
other external factors, including the periodic status or results of ongoing negotiations, the status or results of ongoing litigations and appeals, actual or perceived shifts in the regulatory environment, impact of unrelated patent related judicial proceedings and other macroeconomic factors; and
historically, based on the merits and strength of our operating subsidiary’s patent infringement claims and other factors, many prospective licensees have elected to settle significant patent infringement cases and pay reasonable license fees for the use of our patented technology, as those patent infringement cases approached a court determined trial date.
  
Management does not attempt to manage for smooth sequential periodic growth in revenues period to period, and therefore, periodic results can be uneven. Unlike most operating businesses and industries, licensing revenues not generated in a current period are not necessarily foregone but, depending on whether negotiations, litigation or both continue into subsequent periods, and depending on a number of other factors, such potential revenues may be pushed into subsequent fiscal periods.


















26





Summary of Results of Operations - For Fiscal Years 2015, 2014 and 2013
(In thousands, except percentage change values)
 
Fiscal Year
 
% Change
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Revenues
$
125,037

 
$
130,876

 
$
130,556

 
(4
)%
 
 %
Inventor royalties and contingent legal fees
34,631

 
44,233

 
54,508

 
(22
)%
 
(19
)%
Litigation and licensing expenses - patents
39,373

 
37,614

 
39,335

 
5
 %
 
(4
)%
Amortization expense
53,067

 
53,745

 
49,039

 
(1
)%
 
10
 %
Impairment of patent-related intangible assets

74,731

 
3,497

 
4,619

 
*

 
(24
)%
Impairment of goodwill

30,149

 

 

 
100
 %
 
 %
Other operating costs and expenses(1)
45,708

 
53,942

 
65,986

 
(15
)%
 
(18
)%
Operating loss
(152,622
)
 
(62,155
)
 
(82,931
)
 
146
 %
 
(25
)%
(Provision for) benefit from income taxes
(4,800
)
 
(3,912
)
 
21,958

 
23
 %
 
(118
)%
Net (income) loss attributable to noncontrolling interests(2)
(2,558
)
 
633

 
2,408

 
*

 
(74
)%
Net loss attributable to Acacia Research Corporation
(160,036
)
 
(66,029
)
 
(56,434
)
 
142
 %
 
17
 %
    
____________________________________
* Percentage change in excess of 300%
(1) Includes non-cash stock compensation charges of $11.0 million, $18.1 million and $27.9 million in fiscal years 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively, included in Marketing, general and administrative expense in the statements of operations.
(2) Refer to Note 1 to the notes to consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this annual report for additional information.

Overview - Fiscal year 2015 compared with Fiscal Year 2014

Revenues decreased $5.8 million, or 4% to $125.0 million for fiscal year 2015, as compared to fiscal year 2014.

Inventor royalties and contingent legal fees, on a combined basis, decreased $9.6 million, or 22%, due primarily to certain patent portfolios generating revenue in 2015 with a higher amount of cost recoveries and lower contingent fee rates, as compared to the portfolios generating revenues in fiscal year 2014.

Litigation and licensing expenses-patents increased $1.8 million, or 5%, to $39.4 million, due primarily to a net increase in litigation support and third-party technical consulting expenses associated with trials occurring in 2015 and scheduled to occur in 2016, and ongoing and new licensing and enforcement programs commenced during fiscal year 2015.

Impairment of patent-related intangible asset charges increased $71.2 million, or +300%, to $74.7 million, reflecting the impact of reductions in expected estimated future net cash flows for certain patent portfolios and certain patent portfolios that management determined it would no longer allocate resources to in future periods. The impairment charges consisted of the excess of the asset’s carrying value over its estimated fair value as of the applicable measurement date.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015, we performed an impairment analysis of goodwill. Based upon the difference between the implied fair value of goodwill and the historical carrying value of goodwill, due primarily to the sustained decline in the Company's stock price and adverse litigation outcomes occurring in the fourth quarter of 2015, we recognized a goodwill impairment charge totaling $30.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Other Operating Expenses:

Marketing, general and administrative expenses decreased $10.4 million, or 21%, to $38.2 million, due primarily to a net decrease in personnel costs in connection with the net reduction in headcount during 2014 and 2015, a decrease in variable performance-based compensation costs, and a net decrease in non-cash stock compensation expense.

Fiscal year 2015 operating expenses included expenses for court ordered attorney fees totaling $4.1 million. Fiscal year 2014 operating expenses included an expense accrual for court ordered attorney fees related to matters initiated in 2010 and 2011 totaling $1.5 million.


27





Tax expense for the periods presented reflects foreign taxes withheld on revenue agreements with licensees in foreign jurisdictions and other state taxes, and the impact of full valuation allowances recorded for net operating loss and foreign tax credit related tax assets generated during the periods. As such, no tax benefit was recognized for net operating loss and foreign tax credit related tax benefits generated during the periods presented.

Overview - Fiscal year 2014 compared with Fiscal Year 2013

Revenues were relatively flat in fiscal year 2014, as compared to fiscal year 2013.

Inventor royalties and contingent legal fees, on a combined basis, decreased $10.3 million, or 19%, due primarily to a greater percentage of revenues generated in fiscal year 2014 having no inventor royalty obligations, and lower average inventor royalty rates, as compared to the portfolios generating revenues in fiscal year 2013.

Litigation and licensing expenses-patents decreased $1.7 million, or 4%, to $37.6 million, due primarily to a net decrease in litigation support and third-party technical consulting expenses associated with ongoing and new licensing and enforcement programs commenced during fiscal year 2014.

Patent amortization increased $4.7 million, or 10%, to $53.7 million, due primarily to an increase in amortization expense related to new patent portfolio investments during 2014 and accelerated patent amortization for patent portfolio dispositions, partially offset by a decrease in accelerated patent amortization related to patent portfolio impairment charges during fiscal year 2014.

Other Operating Expenses:

Marketing, general and administrative expenses decreased $10.7 million, or 18%, to $48.6 million, due primarily to a net decrease in personnel costs in connection with the net reduction in headcount during 2014, a decrease in other non-recurring personnel severance costs including the impact of non-recurring cash and non-cash charges associated with the board approved CEO retirement package in 2013, and a net decrease in non-cash stock compensation expense.

Fiscal year 2014 operating expenses included an expense accrual for court determined attorney fees related to matters initiated in 2010 and 2011 totaling $1.5 million. The respective operating subsidiaries have filed notices of appeal. Fiscal year 2013 operating expenses included a one-time, non-recurring charge related to the resolution of a dispute concerning legal fees associated with a prior matter totaling $3.5 million

Tax expense for fiscal year 2014 reflects the impact of a full valuation allowance recorded against our net deferred tax assets generated during the period, including a benefit from the reversal of the net deferred tax liability of $1,735,000 at the beginning of the year. As such, no tax benefit was recognized for net operating loss and foreign tax credit related tax benefits generated during the 2014 periods. Tax expense for fiscal year 2014 primarily reflects foreign taxes withheld on revenue agreements with licensees in foreign jurisdictions and other state taxes. See below for discussion of 2013 tax benefit.

Revenues for the periods presented included fees from the following licensing and enforcement programs:
360 Degree View Technology(1)(2)
 
Messaging technology(2)(3)(4)
3G & 4G Cellular Air Interface and Infrastructure technology(2)(3)
 
Microprocessor and Memory technology(1)(2)(3)
3G & 4G Wireless technology(1)(4)
 
Mobile Computer Synchronization technology(2)(3)(4)
4G Wireless technology(2)(3)
 
Mobile Enhancement Solutions technology(4)
Audio Communications Fraud Detection technology(2)(3)(4)
 
MRI technology(1)(4)
Automotive Safety, Navigation and Diagnostics technology(2)(3)(4)
 
Multi-Display Content Delivery and Data Aggregation technology(1)(3)
Bone Wedge technology(2)
 
NOR Flash technology(4)
Broadband Communications technology(1)(2)(3)(4)
 
Oil and Gas Production technology (1)(2)(3)
Business Process Modeling technology(4)
 
Online Auction Guarantee technology(2)(3)(4)
Camera Support technology(4)
 
Online Gaming technology(3)(4)
Cardiology and Vascular Device technology(1)(2)(3)
 
Online newsletters with links technology(3)(4)

28





Catheter Ablation technology(1)
 
Optical Networking technology(1)(2)(3)(4)
Computer Aided Design Tools technology(1)(3)(4)
 
Optimized Microprocessor Operation technology(1)(2)(3)
Computer Architecture and Power Management technology(4)
 
Power Management within Integrated Circuits technology(4)
Computer-Aided Design technology(1)(3)
 
Prescription Lens technology(1)(4)
Core Fiber Optic Network Architectures technology(1)(3)(4)
 
Radio Frequency Modulation technology(1)(3)
Digital Imaging technology(1)(4)
 
Reflective and Radiant Barrier Insulation technology(1)(2)(3)(4)
Digital Signal Processing Architecture technology(4)
 
Semiconductor Memory and Process technology(1)(4)
DisplayPort and MIPI DSI technology(1)
 
Semiconductor Packaging technology(1)(3)(4)
Distributed Data Management & Synchronization technology(1)
 
Semiconductor Testing technology(1)(2)
DMT® technology(3)(4)
 
Shared Memory for Multimedia Processing(1)
Domain Name Redirection technology(4)
 
Software Activation technology(3)(4)
Dynamic Transmissions technology(1)(4)
 
Software Technology(3)
Electronic Access Control technology(1)(2)(3)
 
Speech codes used in wireless and wireline systems technology(1)(2)(3)
Electronic spreadsheet, data analysis and software development technology(1)(4)
 
Spinning and Jousting Toy Game technology (1)(2)(3)
Enhanced Mobile Communications technology(2)(3)
 
Super Resolutions Microscopy technology(1)(2)(3)
Facilities Operation Management System technology(4)
 
Surgical Access technology(2)(4)
Gas Modulation Control Systems technology(1)(2)(3)(4)
 
Suture Anchors technology(2)(3)(4)
Greeting Card technology(1)(4)
 
Telematics technology(2)(3)(4)
High Speed Circuit Interconnect and Display Control technology(1)(2)(3)
 
Unicondylar Knee Replacement technology(2)
Improved Lighting technology(2)(3)
 
User Programmable Engine Control technology(4)
Improved Memory Manufacturing technology(4)
 
Video Analytics for Security technology(2)(3)(4)
Information Portal Software technology(4)
 
Video Delivery and Processing technology(4)
Information Storage, Searching & Retrieval technology(4)
 
Voice-Over-IP technology(2)(3)
Inhaler Drug Delivery technology(1)(4)
 
Web Collaboration technology(1)(4)
Innovative Display technology(1)(2)(3)
 
Wireless Data Synchronization & Data Transfer technology(1)(2)(3)(4)
Intercarrier SMS technology(1)(2)(3)(4)
 
Wireless Infrastructure and User Equipment technology(1)(2)(3)
Interstitial and Pop-Up Internet Advertising technology(2)(3)(4)
 
Wireless Location Based Services technology(2)(3)
Lighting Ballast technology(4)
 
Wireless Location Based Services technology(1)(4)
Location Based Services technology(2)(3)(4)
 
Wireless Monitoring technology(2)(3)
Memory Circuit and Packaging technology(1)(4)
 
X-Ray Powder Diffraction technology(1)(4)
______________________________________
(1) 
Initial revenues recognized during the applicable period.
(2) 
Licensing and enforcement program generating revenue in 2015.
(3) 
Licensing and enforcement program generating revenue in 2014.
(4) 
Licensing and enforcement program generating revenue in 2013.

Although revenues from one or more of our patents or patent portfolios may be significant in a specific reporting period, we believe that none of our individual patents or patent portfolios is individually significant to our licensing and enforcement business as a whole.

Patent Licensing and Enforcement

Patent Litigation Trial Dates and Related Trials.  As of the date of this report, our operating subsidiaries have in excess of 5 pending patent infringement cases with a scheduled trial date in the next six months.  Patent infringement trials are components of our overall patent licensing process and are one of many factors that contribute to possible future revenue generating opportunities for us.  Scheduled trial dates, as promulgated by the respective court, merely provide an indication of when, in future periods, the trials may occur according to the court’s scheduling calendar at a specific point in time.  A court may change previously scheduled trial dates.  In fact, courts often reschedule trial dates for various reasons that are unrelated to the underlying patent assets and typically for reasons that are beyond our control.  While scheduled trial dates provide an indication of the timing of possible future revenue generating opportunities for us, the trials themselves and the immediately preceding periods represent the possible future revenue generating opportunities.  These future opportunities can result in varying outcomes.  In fact, it is difficult to predict the outcome of patent enforcement litigation at the trial level since outcomes can be unfavorable. It is often difficult for juries and trial judges to understand complex patented technologies, and as a result, this may lead to a higher rate of unfavorable outcomes. Moreover, in the event of a favorable outcome, there is a higher rate of

29





successful appeals in patent enforcement litigation than more standard business litigation. Such appeals are expensive and time consuming, resulting in increased costs and a potential for delayed or foregone revenue opportunities in the event of modification or reversal of favorable outcomes. Although we diligently pursue enforcement litigation, we cannot predict with significant reliability the decisions made by juries and trial courts.  Please refer to Item 1A. "Risk Factors" for additional information regarding trials, patent litigation and related risks.

Litigation and Licensing Expense. We expect patent-related legal expenses to continue to fluctuate from period to period based on the factors summarized herein, in connection with future trial dates, international enforcement, strategic patent portfolio prosecution and our current and future patent portfolio investment, prosecution, licensing and enforcement activities. The pursuit of enforcement actions in connection with our licensing and enforcement programs can involve certain risks and uncertainties, including the following:

Increases in patent-related legal expenses associated with patent infringement litigation, including, but not limited to, increases in costs billed by outside legal counsel for discovery, depositions, economic analyses, damages assessments, expert witnesses and other consultants, re-exam and inter partes review costs, case-related audio/video presentations and other litigation support and administrative costs could increase our operating costs and decrease our profit generating opportunities;

Our patented technologies and enforcement actions are complex and, as a result, we may be required to appeal adverse decisions by trial courts in order to successfully enforce our patents. Moreover, such appeals may not be successful;

New legislation, regulations or rules related to enforcement actions, including any fee or cost shifting provisions, could significantly increase our operating costs and decrease our profit generating opportunities. Increased focus on the growing number of patent-related lawsuits may result in legislative changes which increase our costs and related risks of asserting patent enforcement actions. For instance, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill that would require non-practicing entities that bring patent infringement lawsuits to pay legal costs of the defendants, if the lawsuits are unsuccessful and certain standards are not met;

Courts may rule that our subsidiaries have violated certain statutory, regulatory, federal, local or governing rules or standards by pursuing such enforcement actions, which may expose us and our operating subsidiaries to material liabilities, which could harm our operating results and our financial position; and

The complexity of negotiations and potential magnitude of exposure for potential infringers associated with higher quality patent portfolios may lead to increased intervals of time between the filing of litigation and potential revenue events (i.e. markman dates, trial dates), which may lead to increased legal expenses, consistent with the higher revenue potential of such portfolios.

In the fourth quarter of 2015, we announced that our subsidiary Adaptix, Inc. received a jury verdict in its case against Alcatel Lucent USA, Inc., AT&T Mobility LLC, Cellco Partnership, and Sprint Spectrum L.P., lead case 6:12-cv-00022 pending in the Eastern District of Texas. The jury returned a verdict that the asserted claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,870,808 were invalid and non-infringed. Adaptix, Inc. has filed post-trial motions and is currently studying the verdict to determine whether it will be filing an appeal.

Investments in Patent Portfolios

Our operating subsidiaries continue to identify opportunities to partner with patent owners with high-quality patent assets, across a wide range of technology areas that have been, or are anticipated to be, widely adopted by third-parties in connection with the manufacture or sale of products and services.

In fiscal year 2015, we obtained control of 3 new patent portfolios with applications over a wide range of technology areas, compared to 6 new patent portfolios, and 25 new patent portfolios in fiscal years 2014 and 2013, respectively. During 2015, we partnered with a semiconductor company on a portfolio containing patents related to Flash Memory components and controllers, Solid-State Drives (SSD’s) and other systems containing Flash Memory. In addition, we expanded our partnership with Renesas of Japan, enhancing existing portfolios with nine additional groups of patents related to Microcontrollers, DRAM, Flash Memory and semiconductor packaging and fabrication processes. Patent portfolio investment costs paid in fiscal year 2015 totaled $19.5 million, compared to $42.7 million and $25.1 million in fiscal years 2014 and 2013, respectively. Accrued patent investment costs, to be paid in the subsequent year, totaled $1.0 million and $16.7 million at December 31, 2015 and 2014, respectively.

30






In general, the majority of patent portfolio investment costs incurred for patent portfolios with future inventor royalty obligations are subject to contractual provisions providing for higher percentage returns to our operating subsidiaries early in the licensing and enforcement program until such initial upfront patent portfolio investment costs are fully recovered.

As of December 31, 2015, certain of our operating subsidiaries continued to explore opportunities to enter into option agreements with third-party patent portfolio owners regarding the potential partnering and / or investment in additional patent portfolios for future licensing and enforcement. Future patent portfolio investments will expand and diversify our future revenue generating opportunities.

Neither we nor our operating subsidiaries invent new technologies or products; rather, we depend upon the identification and investment in new patents and inventions through our new or existing relationships with patent owners. If our operating subsidiaries are unable to maintain those relationships and to continue to grow new relationships, then they may not be able to identify new technology-based opportunities for sustainable revenue and growth. In this regard, our current or future relationships may not provide the volume or quality of technologies necessary to sustain our business. In some cases, universities and other technology sources may compete against us as they seek to develop and commercialize technologies. Universities may receive financing for basic research in exchange for the exclusive right to commercialize resulting inventions. These and other strategies may reduce the number of technology sources and potential clients to whom we can market our services. If we are unable to maintain current relationships and sources of technology or to secure new relationships and sources of technology, such inability may have a material adverse effect on our operating results and financial condition.

For example, in fiscal year 2015, we obtained control of 3 new patent portfolios with applications over a wide range of technology areas, compared to 6 new patent portfolios, and 25 new patent portfolios in fiscal years 2014 and 2013, respectively. The decrease in patent portfolio intake, in part reflects a strategic decision in 2013 to shift the focus of our operating business to increasingly serve a smaller number of customers each having higher quality patent portfolios. High quality patent portfolios are typically associated with higher numbers of varied defensible claims, higher revenue potential, originating from high-pedigreed patent owners and/or possessing a relatively large number of prospective licensees. In this regard, commencing in the later portion of 2013 and early 2014, we continued the shift in our focus at our point of patent intake, from quantity to quality. As a result, our gross number of patent portfolio acquisitions has trended downward. The decrease may also be reflective, in part, of industry trends impacting our ability to acquire patent portfolios. For example, legislative and legal changes have increased the complexity of patent enforcement and may be affecting the market availability of suitable patent portfolios for acquisition. If these industry trends continue, our future patent portfolio intake could be negatively impacted, resulting in a decrease in future revenue generating opportunities.

Critical Accounting Policies

Our consolidated financial statements are prepared in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America. In preparing these financial statements, we make assumptions, judgments and estimates that can have a significant impact on amounts reported in our consolidated financial statements. We base our assumptions, judgments and estimates on historical experience and various other factors that we believe to be reasonable under the circumstances. Actual results could differ materially from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions. On a regular basis, we evaluate our assumptions, judgments and estimates and make changes accordingly.

We believe that, of the significant accounting policies discussed in Note 2 to our notes to consolidated financial statements, the following accounting policies require our most difficult, subjective or complex judgments:

revenue recognition;
stock-based compensation expense;
valuation of long-lived and intangible assets including goodwill; and
accounting for income taxes.

We discuss below the critical accounting assumptions, judgments and estimates associated with these policies. Historically, our assumptions, judgments and estimates relative to our critical accounting policies have not differed materially from actual results. For further information on our critical accounting policies, refer to Note 2 to the notes to consolidated financial statements included herein.





31





Revenue Recognition

As described below, significant management judgment must be made and used in connection with the revenue recognized in any accounting period. Material differences may result in the amount and timing of revenue recognized or deferred for any period, if management made different judgments.

Revenue is recognized when (i) persuasive evidence of an arrangement exists, (ii) all obligations have been performed pursuant to the terms of the agreement, (iii) amounts are fixed or determinable and (iv) collectibility of amounts is reasonably assured.

We make estimates and judgments when determining whether the collectibility of fees receivable from licensees is reasonably assured. We assess the collectibility of fees receivable based on a number of factors, including past transaction history and the credit-worthiness of licensees. If it is determined that collection is not reasonably assured, the fee is recognized when collectibility becomes reasonably assured, assuming all other revenue recognition criteria have been met, which is generally upon receipt of cash for transactions where collectibility may have been an issue. Management’s estimates regarding collectibility impact the actual revenues recognized each period and the timing of the recognition of revenues. Our assumptions and judgments regarding future collectibility could differ from actual events and thus materially impact our financial position and results of operations.

In general, our revenue arrangements provide for the payment of contractually determined fees in consideration for the grant of certain intellectual property rights for patented technologies owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries. These rights typically include some combination of the following: (i) the grant of a non-exclusive, retroactive and future license to manufacture and/or sell products covered by patented technologies owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries, (ii) a covenant-not-to-sue, (iii) the release of the licensee from certain claims, and (iv) the dismissal of any pending litigation. The intellectual property rights granted may be perpetual in nature, extending until the expiration of the related patents, or can be granted for a defined, relatively short period of time, with the licensee possessing the right to renew the agreement at the end of each contractual term for an additional minimum upfront payment. Pursuant to the terms of these agreements, our operating subsidiaries have no further obligation with respect to the grant of the non-exclusive retroactive and future licenses, covenants-not-to-sue, releases, and other deliverables, including no express or implied obligation on our operating subsidiaries’ part to maintain or upgrade the technology, or provide future support or services. Generally, the agreements provide for the grant of the licenses, covenants-not-to-sue, releases, and other significant deliverables upon execution of the agreement, or upon receipt of the minimum upfront payment for term agreement renewals. As such, the earnings process is complete and revenue is recognized upon the execution of the agreement, when collectibility is reasonably assured, or upon receipt of the minimum upfront fee for term agreement renewals, and when all other revenue recognition criteria have been met.

Depending on the complexity of the underlying revenue arrangement and related terms and conditions, significant judgments, assumptions and estimates may be required to determine when substantial delivery of contract elements has occurred, whether any significant ongoing obligations exist subsequent to contract execution, whether amounts due are collectible and the appropriate period or periods in which, or during which, the completion of the earnings process occurs. Depending on the magnitude of specific revenue arrangements, if different judgments, assumptions and estimates are made regarding contracts executed in any specific period, our periodic financial results may be materially affected.
 
Our operating subsidiaries are responsible for the licensing and enforcement of their respective patented technologies and pursue third-parties that are utilizing their intellectual property without a license or who have under-reported the amount of royalties owed under a license agreement. As a result of these activities, from time to time, our operating subsidiaries may recognize revenues in a current period that relate to infringements by licensees that occurred in prior periods. These recoveries may cause revenues to be higher than expected during a particular reporting period and may not occur in subsequent periods. Differences between amounts initially recognized and amounts subsequently audited or reported as an adjustment to those amounts, are recognized in the period such adjustment is determined as a change in accounting estimate.

The economic terms of the inventor agreements, operating agreements and contingent legal fee arrangements associated with the patent portfolios owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries, if any, including royalty rates, contingent fee rates and other terms, vary across the patent portfolios owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries. Inventor royalties, noncontrolling interests and contingent legal fees expenses fluctuate period to period, based on the amount of revenues recognized each period, the terms and conditions of revenue agreements executed each period and the mix of specific patent portfolios with varying economic terms and obligations generating revenues each period. Inventor royalties, noncontrolling interests and contingent legal fees expenses will continue to fluctuate and may continue to vary significantly period to period, based primarily on these factors.


32





For fiscal years 2015, 2014 and 2013, the majority of our revenue agreements provided for the payment to us of one-time, paid-up license fees in consideration for the grant of certain intellectual property rights for patented technology rights owned by our operating subsidiaries. These rights were primarily granted on a perpetual basis, extending until the expiration of the underlying patents. Pursuant to the terms of these agreements, our operating subsidiaries have no further obligation with respect to the grant of the non-exclusive licenses, covenants-not-to-sue, releases, and other deliverables, including no express or implied obligation on our operating subsidiaries’ part to maintain or upgrade the technology, or provide future support or services. The agreements provided for the grant of the licenses, covenants-not-to-sue, releases, and other significant deliverables upon execution of the agreement. As such, the earnings process was determined to be complete and revenue was recognized upon the execution of the agreements, when all other revenue recognition criteria were met. Historically, term license agreements have not been a material component of our operating revenues, with the majority of license agreements being paid-up, perpetual license agreements.

Stock-based Compensation Expense

Stock-based compensation payments to employees and non-employee directors are recognized as expense in the statements of operations. The compensation cost for all stock-based awards is measured at the grant date, based on the fair value of the award (determined using a Black-Scholes option pricing model for stock options and intrinsic value on the date of grant for nonvested restricted stock), and is recognized as an expense over the employee’s requisite service period (generally the vesting period of the equity award). Determining the fair value of stock-based awards at the grant date requires significant estimates and judgments, including estimating the market price volatility of our common stock, future employee stock option exercise behavior and requisite service periods.
 
Stock-based compensation expense is recorded only for those awards expected to vest using an estimated pre-vesting forfeiture rate. As such, we are required to estimate pre-vesting option forfeitures at the time of grant and reflect the impact of estimated pre-vesting option forfeitures on compensation expense recognized. Estimates of pre-vesting forfeitures must be periodically revised in subsequent periods if actual forfeitures differ from those estimates. We consider several factors in connection with our estimate of pre-vesting forfeitures, including types of awards, employee class, and historical pre-vesting forfeiture data. The estimation of stock awards that will ultimately vest requires judgment, and to the extent that actual results differ from our estimates, such amounts will be recorded as cumulative adjustments in the period the estimates are revised. If actual results differ significantly from these estimates, stock-based compensation expense and our results of operations could be materially impacted. Refer to Notes 2 and 10 to our notes to consolidated financial statements included elsewhere herein.

Valuation of Long-lived and Intangible Assets Including Goodwill
 
December 31, 2015 Patent Portfolio and Goodwill Impairment Testing. Pursuant to applicable accounting standards, if goodwill and another asset group of a reporting unit are tested for impairment at the same time, the other asset group, in our case our patent portfolios, are to be tested for impairment before goodwill.

Patent Portfolio Impairment testing - December 31, 2015. Acacia reviews long-lived assets and intangible assets for potential impairment annually (quarterly for patents) and when events or changes in circumstances indicate the carrying amount of an asset may not be recoverable. In the event the expected undiscounted future cash flows resulting from the use of the asset is less than the carrying amount of the asset, an impairment loss is recorded equal to the excess of the asset’s carrying value over its fair value. If an asset is determined to be impaired, the loss is measured based on quoted market prices in active markets, if available. If quoted market prices are not available, the estimate of fair value is based on various valuation techniques, including a discounted value of estimated future cash flows.

We performed an impairment analysis for our patents as of December 31, 2015, utilizing the assistance of a third-party valuation specialist, resulting in $74.7 million of patent portfolio impairment charges, for the following reasons:

In December 2015, we announced that our subsidiary Adaptix, Inc. received a jury verdict in its case against Alcatel Lucent USA, Inc., and others. The jury returned a verdict that the asserted claims of the applicable patent at issue were invalid and non-infringed. The Adaptix trial loss resulted in a reduction in estimated cash flows for the Adaptix portfolio expected to be realized from future licensing and enforcement activities, leading to impairment charges on the portfolio in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Management considered the impact of the fourth quarter 2015 adverse trial outcomes on our estimates of future cash flows that could be realized from future licensing and enforcement activities for other patent portfolios. Estimates of future cash flows for certain portfolios were reduced in part, in connection with our assessment of probabilities of realization given the recent adverse trial outcomes.

33






Patent impairment charges include the carrying value of other patent portfolios for which, in the fourth quarter of 2015, we experienced adverse litigation or trial outcomes, leading to a reduction in or elimination of expected future cash flows. In addition, headcount reductions and internal staff optimization efforts led to changes with respect to which patent portfolios we intend to allocate licensing and enforcement resources to in future periods. As such, certain portfolio programs were selected for termination due to a decision to no longer pursue or allocate resources, resulting in a write-off of any remaining carrying value in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Goodwill Impairment Testing - December 31, 2015. At December 31, 2015, prior to the completion of the annual goodwill impairment test, the goodwill balance totaled $30.1 million. Goodwill is tested for impairment at our single reporting unit level on an annual basis and between annual tests if an event occurs or circumstances change that would more likely than not reduce the fair value of a reporting unit below its carrying value. Factors considered important, which could trigger an impairment review, include the following:
 
significant consistent gradual decline in the Company's stock price for a sustained period;
significant underperformance relative to expected historical or projected future operating results;
significant changes in the manner of use of assets or the strategy for the Company's overall business;
significant negative industry or economic trends; and
significant adverse changes in legal factors or in the business climate, including adverse regulatory actions or assessments.
 
The Company considers its market capitalization and other valuation techniques, as applicable, when estimating fair value for goodwill impairment testing purposes. When conducting annual and interim goodwill impairment assessments, the Company initially performs a qualitative evaluation (considering factors described above as applicable) of whether it is more likely than not that goodwill is impaired. If it is determined by a qualitative evaluation that it is more likely than not that goodwill is impaired, a two-step impairment test is applied. The two-step impairment test first compares the estimated fair value of the Company's single reporting unit to its carrying or book value. If the estimated fair value of the reporting unit exceeds its carrying value, goodwill is not impaired and there is no requirement to perform further testing. If the carrying value of the reporting unit exceeds its estimated fair value, the Company is required to perform step-two of the impairment analysis to determine the estimated implied fair value of the reporting unit’s goodwill, and if the carrying value of the reporting unit’s goodwill exceeds its estimated implied fair value, then an impairment loss equal to the difference is recorded in the consolidated statements of operations.

In connection with our annual goodwill impairment testing for 2015, we identified several qualitative factors triggering an impairment test at December 31, 2015, as follows;

Adverse legal outcomes and changes in legal factors. In December 2015, we announced that our subsidiary Adaptix, Inc. received a jury verdict in its case against Alcatel Lucent USA, et al., deciding that the claims of the applicable patent in suit were invalid and non-infringed. This adverse legal outcome and others in the fourth quarter of 2015 resulted in changes in estimates of realization related to litigation outcomes in future periods for certain patent portfolios.

Consistent gradual decline in the Company’s stock price: Historically, the Company's stock price has been volatile, and the volatility continued during fiscal 2015, declining from $16.72 as of January 2, 2015, to $4.29 as of December 31, 2015, a 74% decline. In addition, subsequent to December 31, 2015, the Company's stock price volatility has continued, trending downward to $3.16 as of February 29, 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2015, given the continued decline in stock price up through December 31, 2015, and the impact of the December 2015 adverse trial outcomes noted above, the gradual consistent decline in our stock price was deemed to be sustained, and hence indicative of a reduction in the estimated fair value of the Company, as reflected in our lower overall market capitalization.

Changes in Company Management and Resource Allocations. In connection with certain resource allocation changes within the organization given a change in management in the fourth quarter of 2015, headcount reductions and internal staff optimization efforts occurred, which led to changes with respect to estimates of which patent portfolios we intend to continue to allocate licensing and enforcement resources to in future periods. As such, certain patent portfolio programs were selected for termination due to a decision to no longer allocate resources. In addition, changes in estimates regarding the best and highest use of certain patent portfolios were made, resulting in reductions in estimated future cash flows.


34





At December 31, 2015, we utilized the following methods and assumptions in our annual goodwill impairment testing, which was prepared with the assistance of a third-party valuation specialist:

At December 31, 2015, the initial qualitative assessment included consideration of the factors described above, resulting in a conclusion that as of December 31, 2015, the consistent gradual decline in the Company’s stock price was sustained. We also considered the impact of the December 2015 adverse trial outcomes on our stock price and related estimates of fair value for remaining portfolio opportunities. Based on our assessment of these factors, we determined that it was more likely than not that goodwill was impaired, constituting a triggering event requiring a goodwill impairment test as of December 31, 2015.

We conducted the first step of the goodwill impairment test for our single reporting unit as of December 31, 2015. We utilized the market capitalization plus cost synergies approach to estimate the fair value of the Company. The estimated market capitalization was determined by multiplying our stock price and the common shares outstanding as of December 31, 2015. Management also considered a control premium in its estimate of fair value for our single reporting unit. The cost synergies were estimated based on the cost savings which could be achieved if the Company was acquired by a competitor in the same operating business.

Based on the analysis utilizing the market capitalization plus cost synergies approach, the estimated fair value of the reporting unit of $252 million was below its carrying value of $344.3 million as of December 31, 2015, and therefore, goodwill was determined to be more likely than not, impaired.

The purpose of step 2 of the analysis was to determine the estimated fair value of the assets and liabilities of our reporting unit, in order to determine the implied fair value of goodwill for the reporting unit. The excess, if any, of the fair value of a reporting unit over the amounts assigned to its assets and liabilities is the implied fair value of goodwill. Based upon the analysis performed, the fair value of our reporting unit did not exceed the amounts assigned to our reporting unit assets and liabilities, resulting in a difference between the implied fair value of goodwill of zero and the historical carrying value of goodwill. As a result, we recognized a goodwill impairment charge totaling $30.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Accounting for Income Taxes

As part of the process of preparing our consolidated financial statements, we are required to estimate our income taxes in each of the jurisdictions in which we operate. This process involves the estimating of our actual current tax exposure together with assessing temporary differences resulting from differing treatment of items. These differences result in deferred tax assets and liabilities, which are included within our consolidated balance sheets. We must then assess the likelihood that our deferred tax assets will be recovered from future taxable income and to the extent we believe that recovery is not likely, we must establish a valuation allowance. To the extent we establish a valuation allowance or increase this allowance in a period, we must include an expense within the tax provision in the consolidated statements of operations.     

Significant management judgment is required in determining our provision for income taxes, our deferred tax assets and liabilities and our valuation allowance. Due to uncertainties related to our ability to utilize certain deferred tax assets in future periods, we have recorded a full valuation allowance against our net deferred tax assets as of December 31, 2015. These assets primarily consist of foreign tax credits, capital loss carryforwards and net operating loss carryforwards.

In assessing the need for a valuation allowance, management has considered both the positive and negative evidence available, including but not limited to, estimates of future taxable income and related probabilities, estimates surrounding the character of future income and the timing of realization, consideration of the period over which our deferred tax assets may be recoverable, our recent history of net income and prior history of losses, projected future outcomes, industry and market trends and the nature of existing deferred tax assets. In management’s estimate, any positive indicators, including forecasts of potential future profitability of our businesses, are outweighed by the uncertainties surrounding our estimates and judgments of potential future taxable income, primarily due to uncertainties surrounding the timing of realization of future taxable income and the character of such income in particular future periods (i.e. foreign or domestic). In the event that actual results differ from these estimates or we adjust these estimates should we believe we would be able to realize these deferred tax assets in the future, an adjustment to the valuation allowance would increase income in the period such determination was made.

For example, a similar analysis was performed in the first quarter of 2012, resulting in the release of the valuation allowance on the majority of our net deferred tax assets and a related tax benefit of $10.7 million recognized in the first quarter of 2012. In 2015 and 2014, based on management’s assessment, a full valuation allowance was recorded against the company’s net deferred tax assets generated during the periods and the balances as of the end of each of the periods, due to uncertainty

35





regarding future realizability of such tax assets pursuant to guidance set forth in ASC 740, “Income Taxes.” In future periods, if we determine that the company will more likely than not be able to realize certain of these amounts, the applicable portion of the benefit from the release of the valuation allowance will generally be recognized in the statement of operations in the period the determination is recorded.

Any changes in the judgments, assumptions and estimates associated with our analysis of the need for a valuation allowance in any future periods could materially impact our financial position and results of operations in the periods in which those determinations are made.

Consolidated Results of Operations
Comparison of the Results of Operations for Fiscal Years 2015, 2014 and 2013

Revenues
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
 
(in thousands, except percentage change values and number of agreements)
Revenues
 
$
125,037

 
$
130,876

 
$
130,556

 
$
(5,839
)
 
(4
)%
 
$
320

 
%
New revenue agreements executed
 
63

 
88

 
120

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Average revenue per agreement
 
$
1,985

 
$
1,487

 
$
1,088

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A reconciliation of the change in revenues (based on average revenue per agreement) for the periods presented, in relation to the revenues reported for the comparable prior year period, is as follows:
 
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
 
(in thousands)
Decrease in number of agreements executed
 
$
(37,181
)
 
$
(34,815
)
Increase in average revenue per agreement executed
 
31,342

 
35,135

Total
 
$
(5,839
)
 
$
320


Three licensees individually accounted for 24%, 20% and 16%, respectively, of revenues recognized in fiscal year 2015, two licensees individually accounted for 22% and 22%, respectively, of revenues recognized in fiscal year 2014, and two licensees individually accounted for 38% and 16%, respectively, of revenues recognized in fiscal year 2013. For the periods presented herein, the majority of the revenue agreements executed provided for the payment of one-time, paid-up license fees in consideration for the grant of certain intellectual property rights for patented technology rights owned by our operating subsidiaries. These rights were primarily granted on a perpetual basis, extending until the expiration of the underlying patents.

Net Loss
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
 
(in thousands, except percentages)
Net loss attributable to Acacia Research Corporation
 
$
(160,036
)
 
$
(66,029
)
 
$
(56,434
)
 
$
(94,007
)
 
142
%
 
$
(9,595
)
 
17
%

    









36









A reconciliation of the change in net income (loss) for the periods presented is as follows:
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
%
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
%
 
(in thousands, except percentage values)
Increase (decrease) in revenues
$
(5,839
)
 
6
 %
 
$
320

 
(3
)%
Decrease in inventor royalties and contingent legal fees combined
9,602

 
(10
)%
 
10,275

 
(107
)%
Decrease in marketing, general and administrative expenses
10,378

 
(11
)%
 
10,675

 
(111
)%
(Increase) decrease in litigation and licensing expenses
(1,759
)
 
2
 %
 
1,721

 
(18
)%
(Increase) decrease in patent amortization expenses
678

 
(1
)%
 
(4,706
)
 
49
 %
(Increase) decrease in impairment of patent-related intangible assets
(71,234
)
 
76
 %
 
1,122

 
(12
)%
(Increase) in impairment for goodwill
(30,149
)
 
32
 %
 

 
 %
Change in provision for income taxes
(888
)
 
1
 %
 
(25,870
)
 
270
 %
Other
(4,796
)
 
5
 %
 
(3,132
)
 
32
 %
Net change in net loss
$
(94,007
)
 
100
 %
 
$
(9,595
)
 
100
 %

Cost of Revenues
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
(in thousands, except percentages)
Inventor royalties
$
18,462

 
$
20,670

 
$
29,724

 
$
(2,208
)
 
(11
)%
 
$
(9,054
)
 
(30
)%
Contingent legal fees
16,169

 
23,563

 
24,784

 
(7,394
)
 
(31
)%
 
(1,221
)
 
(5
)%
Litigation and licensing expenses - patents
39,373

 
37,614

 
39,335

 
1,759

 
5
 %
 
(1,721
)
 
(4
)%
Amortization of patents
53,067

 
53,745

 
49,039

 
(678
)
 
(1
)%
 
4,706

 
10
 %

Inventor Royalties and Contingent Legal Fees Expense.  The economic terms of patent partnering agreements, operating agreements and contingent legal fee arrangements, associated with the patent portfolios owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries, if any, including royalty obligations, if any, royalty rates, contingent fee rates and other terms and conditions, vary across the patent portfolios owned or controlled by our operating subsidiaries. In certain instances, we have invested in certain patent portfolios without future inventor royalty obligations. These costs fluctuate period to period, based on the amount of revenues recognized each period, the terms and conditions of revenue agreements executed each period and the mix of specific patent portfolios with varying economic terms, conditions and obligations generating revenues each period.

A summary of the main drivers of the change in inventor royalties expense and contingent legal fees expense, in relation to the change in total revenues, for the comparable periods presented, is as follows:
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
% of Prior Period Balance
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
% of Prior Period Balance
Inventor Royalties:
(in thousands, except percentage change values)
Decrease in inventor royalty rates
$
(3,995
)
 
(20
)%
 
$
(5,044
)
 
(16
)%
Increase (decrease) in total revenues
(1,214
)
 
(6
)%
 
82

 
 %
Decrease (increase) in revenues without inventor royalty obligations
3,001

 
15
 %
 
(4,092
)
 
(14
)%
Total change - inventor royalties expense
$
(2,208
)
 
(11
)%
 
$
(9,054
)
 
(30
)%


37





 
2015 vs. 2014
 
% of Prior Period Balance
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
% of Prior Period Balance
Contingent Legal Fees:
(in thousands, except percentage change values)
Decrease in contingent legal fee rates
$
(6,400
)
 
(27
)%
 
$
(601
)
 
(2
)%
Increase (decrease) in total revenues
(1,096
)
 
(4
)%
 
61

 
 %
Decrease (increase) in revenues without contingent legal fee obligations
102

 
 %
 
(681
)
 
(3
)%
Total change - contingent legal fees
$
(7,394
)
 
(31
)%
 
$
(1,221
)
 
(5
)%

Litigation and Licensing Expenses - Patents.  Litigation and licensing expenses-patents include patent-related litigation, enforcement and prosecution costs incurred by external patent attorneys engaged on an hourly basis and the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by law firms engaged on a contingent fee basis. Litigation and licensing expenses-patents also includes licensing and enforcement related third-party patent research, development, prosecution, re-exam and inter partes reviews, consulting, and other costs incurred in connection with the licensing and enforcement of patent portfolios. Litigation and licensing expenses-patents fluctuate from period to period based on patent enforcement and prosecution activity associated with ongoing licensing and enforcement programs and the timing of the commencement of new licensing and enforcement programs in each period. 

Fiscal year 2015 litigation and licensing expenses-patents increased, as compared to fiscal year 2014, due primarily to a net increase in litigation support and third-party technical consulting expenses associated with trials occurring in 2015 and scheduled to occur in 2016, and ongoing and new licensing and enforcement programs commenced during fiscal year 2015.

Fiscal year 2014 litigation and licensing expenses-patents decreased, as compared to fiscal year 2013, due primarily to a net decrease in litigation support and third-party technical consulting expenses associated with ongoing and new licensing and enforcement programs commenced during fiscal year 2014.

We expect patent-related legal expenses to continue to fluctuate period to period as we incur increased costs related to upcoming scheduled and/or anticipated trial dates, international enforcement activities and strategic patent portfolio prosecution activities over the next several fiscal quarters, as we continue to focus on our investments in these areas.

Amortization of Patents.  The change in amortization expense for the comparable periods presented was due to the following:
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
(in thousands)
Amortization of patent portfolio investments made since the end of the prior year
$
402

 
$
2,534

Scheduled amortization related to patent portfolios owned or controlled as of the end of the prior year
2,489

 
562

Accelerated amortization related to recovery of upfront advances
(1,247
)
 
655

Patent portfolio dispositions
(2,322
)
 
955

Total change in patent amortization expense
$
(678
)
 
$
4,706


Impairment Charges
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
(in thousands, except percentages)
Impairment of patent-related intangible assets
$
74,731

 
$
3,497

 
$
4,619

 
$
71,234

 
2,037
%
 
$
(1,122
)
 
(24
)%
Impairment of goodwill
30,149

 

 

 
30,149

 
100
%
 

 
 %





38





Patent Impairment Charges

2015 versus 2014. Patent portfolio impairment charges totaled $74.7 million and $3.5 million in fiscal years 2015 and 2014, respectively. The impairment charges for the periods presented reflect the impact of reductions in expected estimated future net cash flows for certain portfolios due to adverse litigation outcomes and industry factors and certain patent portfolios that management determined it would no longer allocate licensing and enforcement resources to in future periods. The impairment charges consisted of the excess of the asset’s carrying value over its estimated fair value as of the applicable measurement date. Refer to Critical Accounting Policies elsewhere herein for additional information.

2014 versus 2013. Patent portfolio impairment charges totaled $3.5 million and $4.6 million in fiscal years 2014 and 2013, respectively. The impairment charges related to partial impairment of a portfolio due to a reduction in expected estimated future net cash flows (2014 only) and the impairment of certain patent portfolios that management determined it would no longer allocate future resources to in connection with the licensing and enforcement of such portfolios, due primarily to potential prior art related complexities in two of the programs (2013 only), and/or the overall determination that future resources would be allocated to other licensing and enforcement programs with higher potential return profiles.

Impairment of Goodwill

We conducted an annual goodwill impairment test as of December 31, 2015. Based upon the difference between the implied fair value of goodwill and the historical carrying value of goodwill, due primarily to the sustained decline in the Company's stock price and adverse litigation outcomes in the fourth quarter of 2015, we recognized a goodwill impairment charge totaling $30.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2015. Refer to Critical Accounting Policies elsewhere herein for additional information.

Operating Expenses
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
$ Change
 
% Change
 
 
(in thousands, except percentages)
Marketing, general and administrative
 
$
27,128

 
$
30,439

 
$
31,335

 
$
(3,311
)
 
(11
)%
 
$
(896
)
 
(3
)%
Non-cash stock compensation
 
11,048

 
18,115

 
27,894

 
(7,067
)
 
(39
)%
 
(9,779
)
 
(35
)%
Total marketing, general and administrative expenses
 
$
38,176

 
$
48,554

 
$
59,229

 
$
(10,378
)
 
(21
)%
 
$
(10,675
)
 
(18
)%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Research, consulting and other expenses - business development
 
3,391

 
3,840

 
3,251

 
(449
)
 
(12
)%
 
589

 
18
 %
 
Marketing, General and Administrative Expenses.  Marketing, general and administrative expenses include employee compensation and related personnel costs, including variable performance based compensation and non-cash stock compensation expenses, office and facilities costs, legal and accounting professional fees, public relations, marketing, stock administration, state taxes based on gross receipts and other corporate costs. A summary of the main drivers of the change in marketing, general and administrative expenses for the periods presented, is as follows (in thousands):
 
2015 vs. 2014
 
2014 vs. 2013
 
(in thousands)
Net change in personnel costs
$
(1,264
)
 
$
(1,142
)
Variable performance-based compensation costs
(1,631
)
 
274

Corporate, general and administrative costs
(985
)
 
1,353

Non-cash stock compensation expense
(7,067
)
 
(7,956
)
Non-recurring CEO retirement and other employee severance costs
569

 
(165
)
Nonrecurring non-cash stock compensation - CEO retirement package

 
(1,823
)
Other

 
(1,216
)
Total change in marketing, general and administrative expenses
$
(10,378
)
 
$
(10,675
)

The decrease in non-cash stock compensation expense for the periods presented was due primarily to a decrease in the average grant date fair value of the shares expensed, for the periods presented, and a decrease in the number of shares expensed

39





resulting from a net reduction in employee headcount and a decrease in the number of shares vesting for current employees. Refer to Note 10 to the consolidated financial statements elsewhere herein.

Research, Consulting and Other Expenses - Business Development.  Research, consulting and other expenses include third-party business development related research, development, consulting, and other costs incurred in connection with business development activities. These costs fluctuate period to period based on business development related activities in each period.

Other Operating Expenses

Fiscal year 2015 operating expenses included expenses for court ordered attorney fees and settlement and contingency accruals totaling $4.1 million. Fiscal year 2014 operating expenses included an expense accrual for court ordered attorney fees related to matters initiated in 2010 and 2011 totaling $1.5 million. Operating expenses for the year ended December 31, 2013 included a non-recurring charge related to the resolution of a dispute concerning legal fees associated with a prior matter totaling $3.5 million.

Income Taxes
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
(Provision for) benefit from income taxes (in thousands)
$
(4,800
)
 
$
(3,912
)
 
$
21,958

Effective tax rate
3
%
 
6
%
 
(27
)%
    
Fiscal Year 2015. Our effective tax rate for fiscal year 2015 was mainly comprised of foreign taxes withheld on revenue agreements with licensees in foreign jurisdictions and other state taxes, and the impact of full valuation allowances recorded for net operating loss and foreign tax credit related tax assets generated in 2015, due to uncertainty regarding future realizability. The foreign taxes withheld related to revenue agreements executed with third-party licensees domiciled in certain foreign jurisdictions totaling $4.4 million.

Fiscal Year 2014. Our effective tax rate for fiscal year 2014 was mainly comprised of foreign and state income taxes, a full valuation allowance recorded against the company’s net deferred tax assets generated in 2014, the reversal of the net deferred tax liability at the beginning of the year totaling $1.7 million and certain nondeductible permanent items. The foreign taxes withheld related to revenue agreements executed with third-party licensees domiciled in certain foreign jurisdictions totaling $5.2 million.

Fiscal Year 2013. Our effective tax rate for fiscal year 2013 was mainly comprised of U.S. federal and state income tax benefits and nondeductible permanent expenses. The benefit for income taxes for fiscal year 2013 reflects realization of net operating loss carryforward related tax benefits generated during the period. In 2013, the rate at which we recorded the tax benefit associated with the pretax loss for the period was reduced from the statutory rate primarily due to certain nondeductible permanent items and expired capital loss carryforwards.  In fiscal year 2013, we recorded a valuation allowance against foreign tax credits generated in fiscal 2013 totaling $4.6 million.

Inflation

Inflation has not had a significant impact on us or any of our subsidiaries in the current or prior periods.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

General
 
Our primary sources of liquidity are cash, cash equivalents and investments on hand generated from our operating activities. Our management believes that our cash and cash equivalent balances, investments, and anticipated cash flow from operations, will be sufficient to meet our cash requirements through at least March 2017 and for the foreseeable future.

We may, however, encounter unforeseen difficulties that may deplete our capital resources more rapidly than anticipated, including those set forth under Item 1A, “Risk Factors”, above. Any efforts to seek additional funding could be made through issuances of equity or debt, or other external financing. However, additional funding may not be available on favorable terms, if at all. The capital and credit markets have experienced extreme volatility and disruption since late 2007 and the volatility and impact of the disruption has continued into 2015. At times during this period, the volatility and disruption has

40





reached unprecedented levels. In several cases, the markets have exerted downward pressure on stock prices and credit capacity for certain issuers, and there can be no assurance that the commercial paper markets will be a reliable source of short-term financing for us. If we fail to obtain additional funding when needed, we may not be able to execute our business plans and our business, conducted by our operating subsidiaries, may suffer.

Certain of our operating subsidiaries are often required to engage in litigation to enforce their patents and patent rights.  In connection with any of our operating subsidiaries’ patent enforcement actions, it is possible that a defendant may request and/or a court may rule that an operating subsidiary has violated statutory authority, regulatory authority, federal rules, local court rules, or governing standards relating to the substantive or procedural aspects of such enforcement actions.  In such event, a court may issue monetary sanctions against us or our operating subsidiaries or award attorney’s fees and/or expenses to a defendant(s), which could be material.
 
Cash, Cash Equivalents and Investments

Our consolidated cash, cash equivalents and investments on hand totaled $145.9 million at December 31, 2015, compared to $193.0 million at December 31, 2014. The net change in cash and cash equivalents for the periods presented was comprised of the following (in thousands):
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Net cash provided by (used in):
 
 
 
 
 
 
Operating activities
 
$
(9,949
)
 
$
4,184

 
$
(3,509
)
Investing activities
 
39,307

 
29,297

 
(66,059
)
Financing activities
 
(28,601
)
 
(25,700
)
 
(25,551
)
 
Cash Flows from Operating Activities.  Cash receipts from licensees totaled $111.0 million, $117.0 million and $133.5 million in fiscal years 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively. The fluctuations in cash receipts for the periods presented primarily reflects the corresponding fluctuations in revenues recognized during the same periods, as described above, and the related timing of payments received from licensees. Cash outflows from operations totaled $120.9 million, $112.9 million and $137.0 million in fiscal years 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively. The fluctuations in cash outflows for the periods presented reflects the fluctuations in revenue related inventor royalties and contingent legal fees and other operating costs and expenses during the same periods, as discussed above, and the impact of the timing of payments to inventors, attorneys and other vendors.

Cash Flows from Investing Activities. Cash flows from investing activities and related changes were comprised of the following for the periods presented (in thousands):
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Patent portfolio investment costs
 
$
(19,504
)
 
$
(42,746
)
 
$
(25,061
)
Net sale (purchase) of available-for-sale investments
 
58,819

 
72,152

 
(40,323
)
Other
 
(8
)
 
(109
)
 
(675
)
Net cash provided by (used in) investing activities
 
$
39,307

 
$
29,297

 
$
(66,059
)

Cash Flows from Financing Activities. Cash flows from financing activities and related changes included the following for the periods presented (in thousands):
 
 
2015
 
2014
 
2013
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dividends paid to stockholders
 
$
(25,434
)
 
$
(25,039
)
 
$
(18,633
)
Distributions to noncontrolling interests - Acacia IP Fund
 
(4,105
)
 
(867
)
 

Proceeds from the exercise of stock options
 
938

 
206

 
486

Repurchases of common stock
 

 

 
(7,926
)
Contributions from noncontrolling interests - Acacia IP Fund
 

 

 
1,920

Excess tax benefits (shortfalls) from stock-based compensation
 

 

 
(1,398
)
Net cash provided by financing activities
 
$
(28,601
)
 
$
(25,700
)
 
$
(25,551
)


41





Dividends to Stockholders. On April 23, 2013, we announced that our Board of Directors approved the adoption of a cash dividend policy that calls for the payment of an expected total annual cash dividend of $0.50 per common share, payable in the amount of $0.125 per share per quarter. Under the policy, we paid quarterly cash dividends totaling $25.4 million, $25.0 million and $18.6 million in 2015, 2014 and 2013, respectively.

On February 25, 2016, we announced that our Board of Directors terminated the company’s dividend policy effective February 23, 2016. The Board terminated the dividend policy due to a number of factors, including our financial performance and our available cash resources, our cash requirements and alternative uses of capital that the Board of Directors concluded would represent an opportunity to generate a greater return on investment for us and our stockholders.

Stock Repurchase Programs. On November 15, 2013, our Board of Directors authorized a program for repurchases of shares of our outstanding common stock. We were authorized to purchase in the aggregate up to $70.0 million of our outstanding common stock through the period ending May 14, 2014. Repurchases may be made from time to time by us in the open market or in block purchases in compliance with applicable SEC rules. In fiscal year 2013, we acquired 600,000 shares of our common stock at an average price of $13.18. Repurchases to date were made using existing cash resources and occurred in the open market.

Working Capital

The primary components of working capital are cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, prepaid expenses, accounts payable, accrued expenses, and royalties and contingent legal fees payable. Working capital at December 31, 2015 was $150.7 million, compared to $172.8 million at December 31, 2014.  
 
Consolidated accounts receivable from licensees increased to $33.5 million at December 31, 2015, compared to $20.2 million at December 31, 2014. Accounts receivable balances fluctuate based on the timing, magnitude and payment terms associated with revenue agreements executed during the year, and the timing of cash receipts on accounts receivable balances recorded in previous periods. Two licensees individually represented approximately 72% and 21%, respectively, of accounts receivable at December 31, 2015. Three licensees individually represented approximately 30%, 17% and 15%, respectively, of accounts receivable at December 31, 2014.

Accounts payable and accrued expenses increased to $17.3 million at December 31, 2015, from $14.9 million at December 31, 2014, due primarily to the related timing of payments to vendors in the ordinary course.

Consolidated royalties and contingent legal fees payable increased to $14.9 million at December 31, 2015, compared to $14.4 million at December 31, 2014. Royalties and contingent legal fees payable balances fluctuate based on the magnitude and timing of the execution of related license agreements, the timing of cash receipts for the related license agreements, and the timing of payment of current and prior period royalties and contingent legal fees payable to inventor and outside attorneys, respectively.

The majority of accounts receivable from licensees at December 31, 2015 were collected or scheduled to be collected in the first quarter of 2016, in accordance with the terms of the related underlying license agreements. The majority of royalties and contingent legal fees payable are scheduled to be paid in the first and second quarter of 2016 in accordance with the underlying contractual arrangements.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

We have not entered into off-balance sheet financing arrangements, other than operating leases.

Contractual Obligations
 
We have no significant commitments for capital expenditures in 2016. Other than our restricted cash of $10.7 million, we have no committed lines of credit or other committed funding or long-term debt. The following table lists our material known future cash commitments as of December 31, 2015, and any material known commitments arising from events subsequent to year end:

42





 
 
Payments Due by Period (In thousands)
 
 
Total
 
Less than
 1 year
 
1-3 years
 
More than 3 years
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Operating leases
 
$
6,463

 
$
1,459

 
$
3,169

 
$
1,835

Scheduled patent investment related payments
 
1,000

 
1,000

 

 

Total contractual obligations
 
$
7,463

 
$
2,459

 
$
3,169

 
$
1,835

    
Standby Letter of Credit and Guarantee Arrangement. In March 2015, an operating subsidiary of ours entered into a standby letter of credit and guarantee arrangement (“Guarantee”) with a bank in the amount of $10.7 million, for purposes of enforcing a court ruling in a German patent court granting an injunction against the defendants in the related patent infringement case. An injunction is an equitable remedy in the form of a court order that compels the defendant(s) to cease marketing, offering for sale or importing applicable infringing products into applicable jurisdiction(s).
Under German law, in order to enforce the injunction granted by the court, a Guarantee is required to be furnished by our operating subsidiary, the plaintiff in the case, for potential payment to the defendants of any applicable claims which may be incurred by the defendants as a result of the enforcement of the injunction, only in the event that the aforementioned court ruling is subsequently successfully appealed by the defendants or otherwise amended. The Guarantee is required to be issued unlimited with respect to time, until appropriately extinguished in accordance with German law. The Guarantee will be extinguished when a relevant extinguishment order by the court having jurisdiction takes effect, typically occurring when the related infringement case has been settled or a final non-appealable decision has been issued by the court.
The Guarantee is secured by a cash deposit at the contracting bank totaling $10.7 million, which is classified as restricted cash in accompanying balance sheet. The Guarantee expires on April 10, 2016, however, it is automatically extended without amendment for a period of one (1) year from the present or any future expiration date, unless at least 30 days prior to any expiration date, the Guarantee is extinguished in accordance with German law. The Guarantee facility fee is 1.15% per year, and the related expense is included in the statement of operations.
Uncertain Tax Positions. At December 31, 2015, we had total unrecognized tax benefits of approximately $2.1 million, including a recorded noncurrent liability of $85,000 related to unrecognized tax benefits primarily associated with state taxes. No interest and penalties have been recorded for the unrecognized tax benefits as of December 31, 2015. If recognized, approximately $2.1 million would impact our effective tax rate. We do not expect that the liability for unrecognized tax benefits will change significantly within the next 12 months.


Recent Accounting Pronouncements

Refer to Note 2 to our notes to consolidated financial statements included elsewhere herein.

 
ITEM 7A. QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE DISCLOSURES ABOUT MARKET RISK

The primary objective of our investment activities is to preserve principal while concurrently maximizing the income we receive from our investments without significantly increasing risk. Some of the securities that we invest in may be subject to interest rate risk and/or market risk. This means that a change in prevailing interest rates, with respect to interest rate risk, or a change in the value of the United States equity markets, with respect to market risk, may cause the principal amount or market value of the investments to fluctuate. For example, if we hold a security that was issued with a fixed interest rate at the then-prevailing rate and the prevailing interest rate later rises, the current value of the principal amount of our investment may decline. To minimize these risks in the future, we intend to maintain our portfolio of cash equivalents and short-term investments in a variety of securities, including commercial paper, money market funds, high-grade corporate bonds, government and non-government debt securities and certificates of deposit.

At December 31, 2014, our short-term investments were comprised of AAA rated money market funds that invest in first-tier only securities, which primarily include domestic commercial paper, securities issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government or its agencies, U.S. bank obligations, and fully collateralized repurchase agreements (included in cash and cash equivalents in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets), and direct investments in highly liquid, AAA, U.S. government securities (included in short term investments in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets). Short-term investment balances were zero at December 31, 2015.

43






In general, money market funds are not subject to market risk because the interest paid on such funds fluctuates with the prevailing interest rate. Accordingly, a 100 basis point increase in interest rates or a 10% decline in the value of the United States equity markets would not be expected to have a material impact on the value of such money market funds. Investments in U.S. government fixed income securities are subject to interest rate risk and will decline in value if interest rates increase. However, due to the relatively short duration of our investment portfolio, an immediate 10% change in interest rates would have no material impact on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows. Declines in interest rates over time will, however, reduce our interest income.


ITEM 8. FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTARY DATA

The financial statements and related financial information required to be filed hereunder are indexed under Item 15 of this report and are incorporated herein by reference.


ITEM 9. CHANGES IN AND DISAGREEMENTS WITH ACCOUNTANTS ON ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

None.


 ITEM 9A. CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES

(a) Conclusion Regarding the Effectiveness of Disclosure Controls and Procedures
 
Under the supervision and with the participation of our management, including our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, we conducted an evaluation of our disclosure controls and procedures, as defined in Rules 13a-15(e) and 15d-15(e) under the Exchange Act. Based on this evaluation, our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer concluded that, as of December 31, 2015, our disclosure controls and procedures were effective to ensure that the information required to be disclosed by us in the reports that we file or submit under the Exchange Act is accumulated and communicated to our management, including our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosure, and that such information is recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods prescribed by the SEC. 

(b) Management’s Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting  
 
Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting, as defined in Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f) under the Exchange Act. Under the supervision and with the participation of our management, including our Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer, we conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting based on the 2013 framework in Internal Control - Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. Based on our evaluation under the framework in Internal Control - Integrated Framework, our management concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2015.
 
Grant Thornton LLP, the independent registered public accounting firm who audited our consolidated financial statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, has issued an attestation report on the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2015, which is included herein.
 
Changes in Internal Controls. There were no changes in our internal control over financial reporting during the fourth fiscal quarter that have materially affected, or are reasonably likely to materially affect, our internal control over financial reporting.


ITEM 9B. OTHER INFORMATION

None 



44





PART III

 ITEM 10. DIRECTORS, EXECUTIVE OFFICERS AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

Except as provided below, in accordance with General Instruction G(3) to Form 10-K, certain information required by this Item is incorporated herein by reference to our definitive proxy statement to be filed with the SEC no later than April 30, 2016.

 Code of Conduct.
 
We have adopted a Code of Conduct that applies to all employees, including our chief executive officer, chief financial and accounting officer, president and any persons performing similar functions. Our Code of Conduct is provided on our internet website at www.acaciaresearch.com.


 ITEM 11. EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

In accordance with General Instruction G(3) to Form 10-K, the information required by this Item is incorporated herein by reference to our definitive proxy statement to be filed with the SEC no later than April 30, 2016.


 ITEM 12. SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF CERTAIN BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT AND RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS

In accordance with General Instruction G(3) to Form 10-K, certain information required by this Item is incorporated herein by reference to our definitive proxy statement to be filed with the SEC no later than April 30, 2016.

45





Equity Compensation Plan Information
 
The following table provides information with respect to shares of our common stock issuable under our equity compensation plans as of December 31, 2015:
 
Plan Category
 
(a) Number of securities to be issued upon exercise of outstanding options
 
(b) Weighted-average exercise price of outstanding options
 
(c) Number of securities remaining available for future issuance under equity compensation plans (excluding securities reflected in column (a))
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Equity compensation plans approved by security holders
 
 
 
 
 
 
2002 Acacia Technologies Stock Incentive Plan(1)
 
15,000

 
$
13.38

 

2013 Acacia Research Stock Incentive Plan(2)
 

 

 
2,778,000

Subtotal
 
15,000

 
$
13.38

 
2,778,000

Equity compensation plans not approved by security holders
 
 

 
 
 
 

Grants to New Employees Outside of the Plans
 

 

 

Total
 
15,000

 
$
13.38

 
2,778,000

____________________
(1)
The 2002 Stock Plan expired in December 2012. Column (a) excludes 40,000 in nonvested restricted stock awards and restricted stock units outstanding at December 31, 2015. Refer to Note 10 to our notes to consolidated financial statements included elsewhere herein.
(2)
The initial share reserve under the 2013 Acacia Research Stock Incentive Plan, or the 2013 Plan, was 4,750,000 shares of our common stock. No new additional shares will be added to the 2013 Plan without security holder approval (except for shares subject to outstanding awards that are forfeited or otherwise returned to the 2013 Plan). Column (a) excludes 891,000 in nonvested restricted stock awards and restricted stock units outstanding at December 31, 2015. Refer to Note 10 to our notes to consolidated financial statements included elsewhere herein.

 
 ITEM 13. CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED TRANSACTIONS, AND DIRECTOR INDEPENDENCE

In accordance with General Instruction G(3) to Form 10-K, the information required by this Item is incorporated herein by reference to our definitive proxy statement to be filed with the SEC no later than April 30, 2016.


 ITEM 14. PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTING FEES AND SERVICES

In accordance with General Instruction G(3) to Form 10-K, the information required by this Item is incorporated herein by reference to our definitive proxy statement to be filed with the SEC no later than April 30, 2016.


46


PART IV

 ITEM 15. EXHIBITS, FINANCIAL STATEMENT SCHEDULES
(a)
The following documents are filed as part of this report.