Marathon Patent Group, which saw its stock plummet last month after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it harder for patent licensing companies to sue for patent infringement in districts favorable to them, has taken steps to shore up its flagging shares.
On May 30, having seen its share price plummet more than 90 percent over the last 52 weeks, the company issued a notice of a special meeting to authorize the board to implement a reverse stock split at a range of 1-for-4 to 1-for-25. If approved, the action could take place any time before March 31, 2018.
The stock freefall came after the justices ruled unanimously that patent lawsuits can be filed only in states where the target companies are incorporated and where it has regular acts of business.
That is expected to be a blow to patent
licensing companies such as Marathon, which acquire and hold patents but often don’t exercise them.
“Prior to this ruling, patent trolls could
file a lawsuit anywhere,” said Eugene Chong, a law adjunct at UCLA School of Law and patent litigator. “What this did was companies were sued in districts where the jury ruled favorably in the plaintiff’s or the patent holder’s favor.”
The West L.A. company’s stock price declined after the May 22 ruling, and it edged up only slightly by last week. Marathon closed at 19 cents a share May 22, down 50 percent from the 38 cents a share it traded at a week earlier. By May 31, its stock had rebounded to 23 cents a share, still down 91.6 percent from a year earlier.
Representatives of Marathon, which was not involved in the lawsuit before the high court, declined to comment last week.
The company, helmed by Chief Executive Doug Croxall, was already struggling, reporting a net loss of $28.7 million ($1.89 a share) in 2016 compared to a loss of $16.9 million ($1.19) in 2015, according to its annual financial report.
Before the recent ruling, a California
entity could face a patent infringement suit filed in a federal court in eastern Texas, where about 40 percent of U.S. patent lawsuits were filed. The district, said Greg Upchurch, director of research of Legal Metric, a St. Louis, Mo.-based litigation analysis firm, was particularly friendly to plaintiffs.
“In 2003, there were 50 cases filed there. In 2016, over 1,000 patent lawsuits were filed in that district.”
In the Supreme Court case, TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, Kraft sued TC in Delaware, claiming patent infringement of flavored drink mixes. Indiana-based TC filed an appeal, but the lower courts refused to transfer the case to its home state.
The Supreme Court ruled that TC couldn’t be sued in Delaware.
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