RPX CEO Resigns After Disagreement With Board

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By Malathi Nayak

A founder of RPX Corp., which buys patents to shield clients against infringement lawsuits, was ousted as chief executive officer after a disagreement with the board over taking the company private, the company said in a press release.

RPX’s board of directors asked John Amster to step down from the chief executive post after he pushed to pursue a private sale of the San Francisco-based company, which is currently listed on NASDAQ, the company said.

The board said it would “review and assess any bona fide proposal,” but it disagreed with Amster’s views on a sale, after conducting a recent review of the company’s prospects, according to the Feb. 6 release.

General Counsel Marty Roberts has been appointed as RPX’s interim CEO, the company said. Amster’s departure comes as RPX has begun diversifying into new businesses, such as insurance and electronic document discovery, to tap new revenue.

Amster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2008, Amster co-founded RPX to buy patents defensively and set up a subscription-based business that collects fees from member clients to license patents and shield them against patent infringement charges. He was appointed as RPX’s chief executive in 2010 and led the company through its initial public offering in 2011.

Diversifying into Insurance, Discovery

Recent case law and regulation have made it tougher for non-practicing entities, or companies that do not make a product but earn revenue by licensing patents, to mount and win legal fights against larger technology companies. This shift has lowered patent litigation risks for RPX’s clients and led the company to find additional revenue streams.

Under Amster’s watch, RPX purchased a portfolio of 4,000 patent assets in 2014 from Rockstar Consortium LLC, a patent-holding group that bought 6,000 patents from Nortel for $4.5 billion in 2011. RPX’s $900 million purchase of the Rockstar patents came as long-drawn out patent battles were gripping the smartphone industry.

Rockstar’s members included Apple, Blackberry and Microsoft.

Last year, RPX closed a deal to buy discovery management service Inventus Solutions Inc., for $232 million to expand into the document discovery market.

RPX is also one of the more active petitioners at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. So far, it has filed 32 patent validity challenges since 2013 on behalf of its members.

To contact the reporter on this story: Malathi Nayak in Washington at mnayak@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

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