We present here some results of a study on U.S. listed companies in the healthcare sector (Nasdaq, NYSE and Amex) based on their patent activity, in particular derived from PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent applications administered by the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO).
A series of studies is in progress following SA’s articles Companies In The Technology Sector To Consider/Avoid Ta... and Companies In The Healthcare Sector To Consider/Avoid Ta...
The present semiconductors study considered the following 69 companies with a patent index, but there’re more than 110 companies in total: Intel Corporation (INTC), Applied Materials, Inc. (AMAT), Kyocera Corporation (OTCPK:KYOCY), Micron Technology, Inc. (MU), Texas Instruments Incorporated (TXN), Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), Microchip Technology Incorporated (MCHP), Xilinx, Inc. (XLNX), Cypress Semiconductor Corporation (CY), Cree, Inc. (CREE), Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI), InvenSense, Inc. (INVN), MACOM Technology Solutions Holdings, Inc. (MTSI), Everspin Technologies, Inc. (MRAM), Finisar Corporation (FNSR), IPG Photonics Corporation (IPGP), Integrated Device Technology, Inc. (IDTI), Skyworks Solutions, Inc. (SWKS), Cabot Microelectronics Corporation (CCMP), NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA), Rambus Inc. (RMBS), First Solar, Inc. (FSLR), Atomera Incorporated (ATOM), Maxim Integrated Products, Inc. (MXIM), STMicroelectronics N.V. (STM), Viavi Solutions Inc. (VIAV), AU Optronics Corp. (AUO), FormFactor, Inc. (FORM), NeoPhotonics Corporation (NPTN), SunEdison Semiconductor Limited (SEMI), Resonant Inc. (RESN), Semtech Corporation (SMTC), GSI Technology, Inc. (GSIT), Kopin Corporation (KOPN), Microsemi Corporation (MSCC), Applied Optoelectronics, Inc. (AAOI), Acacia Communications, Inc. (ACIA), EMCORE Corporation (EMKR), Enphase Energy, Inc. (ENPH), Exar Corporation (EXAR), Kulicke and Soffa Industries, Inc. (KLIC), Linear Technology Corporation (LLTC), Lattice Semiconductor Corporation (LSCC), Power Integrations, Inc. (POWI), Actions Semiconductor Co., Ltd. (ACTS), Applied Micro Circuits Corporation (AMCC), Amkor Technology, Inc. (AMKR), Broadcom Limited (AVGO), AXT, Inc. (AXTI), Cavium, Inc. (CAVM), Cirrus Logic, Inc. (CRUS), Diodes Incorporated (DIOD), eMagin Corporation (EMAN), DSP Group, Inc. (DSPG), GigCapit, Inc. (GIG), Intermolecular, Inc. (IMI), Adesto Technologies Corporation (IOTS), Inphi Corporation (IPHI), Mellanox Technologies, Ltd. (MLNX), MoSys, Inc. (MOSY), Netlist, Inc. (OTC:NLST), MaxLinear, Inc (MXL), Oclaro, Inc. (OCLR), Photronics, Inc. (PLAB), On Track Innovations Ltd (OTIV), Quantenna Communications, Inc. (QTNA), Rubicon Technology, Inc. (RBCN), SolarEdge Technologies, Inc. (SEDG) and Silicon Laboratories Inc. (SLAB).
In SA’s article Companies In The Technology Sector To Consider/Avoid Ta..., we have shown that:
- Companies filing PCT patents fare better than the ones which don’t, see Figure 1.
- Models relying on PCT patent applications translate into forward looking innovation and strong market outperformance versus current methods relying on granted patents (past innovation). This is evidence of the strength of patent dynamics with the identification of patent patterns/clusters and cycles of innovation.
As explained in previous SA articles (17 Healthcare Companies To Consider Based On Patent..., 40% Return In ~4 Months With Our IP Selected Health..., In Which Company Should You Invest In, Taking Into ..., In Which Field/Sub-Field Should You Invest In, Taki..., Patent Dynamics And Stock Performance):
Innovalpha has developed proprietary IP and quantitative investment models based exclusively on patents. Patent applications are processed on a weekly basis and result in a proprietary IP index for each company that files patents. Patent patterns/clusters are identified from the IP index, grading all companies that are filtered through.
Innovalpha has shown that more alpha is generated amongst innovative companies (backtesting and real track performance), as measured by weekly fluctuations in specific patent filing activity. From a weekly intellectual patent index (PI), it is possible to calculate innovation/patent scores for any company worldwide that files patents.
These IP models provide buy and sell signals for stocks, essentially saying that now is the time to consider those stocks based on patent dynamics/patterns. In other words, companies that have seen quite recent notable increase in patent activity (see examples below) corresponding to identified patent patterns/clusters by the IP models provide support to integrate these stocks in your watch-list.
As mentioned in a previous SA article:
Such patent patterns reflect in principle interesting internal innovation that may lead to products on the market. At the minimum, such recent patent patterns reflect management belief that such innovation deserves consideration with consequently substantial financial and human resources allocated through increased patent-filing activity over a defined period of time (and the smaller the company is, the greater likelihood this is correct).
In summary, identification of patent patterns or profiles is an indication of growth within a company. The IP models do not assess the value of a patent per se, which is already a very difficult and likely impossible task for a patent expert, but takes into account the type of patent and fluctuations of patent activity over time (patent patterns/clusters). The SA article "Patent Dynamics And Stock Performance - Part II On IP/Patent/Innovation Indexes" provides further information, explanations and examples of the IP/patent models/Indexes.
Construction of IP models and IP/Patent Index
Currently, nearly six thousand (5796) companies are taken into account by the IP algorithms corresponding to Nasdaq, NYSE and Amex constituents.
The models/algorithms are built as follows:
i. Patent Profile: Each company's patent activity over time is unique (= history of patent activity). Algorithms have been designed to capture each company's patent profile on a weekly basis = IP [Patent] index for each company. The IP index fluctuates over time.
The IP index takes the following factors into account:
- Type of patent data - this is a quality measure as patents are not equivalent per se (different types of patents coexist, e.g. utility patents, design patents, innovation patents, patent applications, granted patents…).
- History of patent activity of a given company (distinct period of time for each company).
The IP index is therefore calculated in the same manner for all companies worldwide, whether private or public, for all sectors and regardless of the size of the company.
ii. Patent Dynamics: Among the thousands of different patent profiles (IP Index over time), specific patterns or fluctuations of patent activity over time have been detected to be correlated with market outperformance (alpha) via backtesting (patterns may be related to intense innovation, product launch, good management, etc.) = Patent Dynamics
iii. Ranking: The degree of outperformance is dependent on the type of patent pattern (e.g. a pattern A results in a better outperformance than a pattern B). This enabled the construction of a ranking system...
The IP models therefore enable the determination of buy and sell signals but also recommendations. The actual implementation of the buy/sell signal, i.e. the buy and sell recommendation (the moment shares of the company are bought/sold), is not necessarily immediately following the buy/sell signal and may depend on the sector of activity or determined exclusively by each patent index. The buy/sell signal may be implemented after a few weeks or months. The time interval between the buy signal and its implementation (buy recommendation) may represent the average time needed for a company in a given sector to actually develop and market the products derived from in-house innovation, which will in turn materialize into equity return.
Criterion for success? Which are the factors and patterns that lead to outperformance? The main factors consist of a certain level of patent history and evidently the type of data used. Patterns that lead to outperformance include i) constant and progressive filing activity over a certain length of time and ii) increased or intensive filing activity over a shorter period of time. A lot of variations have been derived from these basics concepts. In general, a steady (even slow) increase over a certain period of time (from approximately 3 years) is in principle better than a rapid increase in a short period of time (e.g. 6 months). This makes sense for the rationale as it underlies a sustainable innovation/business.
In summary, Patent Dynamics is the design of unique models to identify specific patterns of innovation in any given Patent Profile. The use of patent data with patent dynamics represent a synergistic combination, which provides an entirely new way of identifying and selecting innovative growth-driven companies.
Evidence of alpha generation has already been shown in previous Innovalpha SA's articles/blogs. From the Patent Index, other scores can be computed like a patent value score, a patent risk score and a patent disruptive score.
The IP models contribute significantly in the selection of promising innovation-driven and patent-centric companies within sectors that:
- often rely on patent assets, i.e., secure their innovation with patents (sectors with high patent activity, see e.g. SA previous article); and
- consequently display more patent patterns/clusters synonymous of alpha generation.
Innovalpha's (IA) expertise is therefore in the development of IP algorithms for the early detection of innovation-driven companies (and not in classical financial analysis).
We believe that the combination of Patent Dynamics with financial analyst opinions will increase the likelihood of stock outperformance.
First, a few remarks on the semiconductors industry. Among all the industries analyzed, it is the one with the highest Patent Index (IP or PI Index), however this industry is on third position for its overall patent score (see below) after “Major Pharmaceuticals” and “Industrial Machinery/Components.” This is a very good score taking into account that there’re “only” 69 companies in this industry with a patent index (>110 companies in total) in comparison with 89 companies in Industrial Machinery/Components and 288 companies in Major Pharmaceuticals.
Figure 2 shows the evolution of Semiconductors’ patent index and scores over time.
In mid-2018, the patent index crossed again briefly the 4000 line, a score that was not seen since 2013, with a decreasing trend since then. The semiconductors industry has therefore been very active the last few years, which is not a surprise. As the patent indexes built rely on recent/forward looking innovation, the Semiconductor patent index is therefore a good gauge of actual R&D/innovation in this industry.
Nearly all companies of this industry (companies with a patent index) are in the Nasdaq (59 companies), with 8 companies in the NYSE and 2 companies in the Amex, see the proportion below.
Figure 3 shows the contribution in terms of percentage of the top fifteen companies to the semiconductors patent index. One can immediately see the importance of Intel in this industry contributing incredibly to more than 40% to the semiconductors patent index. In fact, only 5 companies in this industry contributes to more than 5% with Intel, i.e. Texas Instruments, Micron Technology, Kyocera and Applied Materials. On the other hand, 64 companies have scores below 5%, 60 companies below 1%, which means nearly no contribution to the patent index and therefore with very little patent activity in relation to PCT applications filed.
As can be seen from Figure 4, important patent activity does not necessarily translate into best overall patent scores obtained from patent value, risk and disruptive capacity computed from their patent index. For example, Intel, the company with the highest patent index, is in second position and first is Micron Technology.
Figure 5 shows the best companies according to their weekly overall patent score. On the podium is Micron Technology, Inc., Intel Corporation, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., followed by Applied Materials, Inc., Kyocera Corporation, Texas Instruments Incorporated, Integrated Device Technology, Inc., Everspin Technologies, Inc., Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, InvenSense, Inc., Atomera Incorporated, Cree, Inc., Finisar Corporation, Xilinx, Inc., Viavi Solutions Inc., NVIDIA Corporation, FormFactor, Inc., NeoPhotonics Corporation and STMicroelectronics N.V.
These companies display the best overall patent score taking into account patent value, patent risk and patent disruptive scores computed from their patent index. Such scores are evidence of innovation activity within these companies with identification of clear patterns/clusters. Investors shall definitively consider these companies for further analysis.
Figure 6 shows a more detailed view of the best companies displaying their patent index, grade, patent value, patent risk and patent disruptive scores.
Figure 6 shows that it is mainly/only the patent risk score that contributes to the overall patent score in this industry with established players usually having a high patent risk score. Except for a few companies, there’s not a lot of patent value to be found in this industry and disruptive scores are all negative except for 4 companies! Nonetheless, in view of their market capitalization, it is worth considering for example MTSI, IDT, MRAM and ATOM for further analysis (possible targets?). As such, not a lot of targets in the semiconductors industry with innovation capacity concentrated only among a few long-established players, especially INTC.
Patent value score is related to the identification of the patterns/clusters which translate into alpha generation. The higher the value, the more patterns/clusters have been identified. The investors should note that it is better to select companies at the start of their innovation cycle (not indicated in the Figure) as stock market price might have already increased. Further, financial analysis is therefore warranted before including any of these companies in your portfolio.
No value is provided to a single patent, but to a specific patent portfolio. The main criteria taken into account for conferring patent value to the patent portfolio are:
- specific patents, e.g. PCT patent applications have intrinsic value as shown, which makes sense for those familiar with PCT applications (patent index creation)
- by intense analysis and model construction, identification of specific patent patterns/clusters, specific fluctuations of patent activity (patent index) over time = specific value [this has been performed with basic rules, no over-fitting, by checking first via backtestings the stock outperfomance; third-party validation and real-track]
- given historical time frame, we look at recent patent activity (a few years only) in order to concentrate on forward looking innovation that is not yet or not fully part of a company stock valuation. This can be omitted if one wants to determine the full valuation of a company based on our approach.
The patent value score presented here is based on a basic model constantly providing outperformance. Basically, the patent value is thus given by the financial community. Likely more weight should be given to the identified fluctuations/patterns as these patent applications (in particular PCT applications) represent after all the actual/future innovation and core/fundamental value of a company.
Patent risk score is related to patent activity. We can see that all these companies display similar patent risk scores. Advantageously, the investor can choose companies according to their patent risk score in order to adapt to the risk profile of the investor. However, as is usually the case, the investor should note that the less risk taken, the less probability that alpha will be generated, and, on the other hand, the more risk taken, the more probability that alpha will be generated (backtesting evidence).
Patent disruptive score is also related to patent activity and in particular to specific patterns of intense patent activity over a particular period of time. In general, it is more difficult for heavy PCT filers to display high values in such scores. Disruptors are more easily found in new emerging companies.
The investor should also note that the mere filing of PCT applications is an indication of success, but certainly not the best way to select companies. What is much more interesting are the specific patterns or fluctuations in the patent index detected and translated in the various patent scores.
Figure 7 shows the worst companies with a patent index (companies having no patent index are even worse). What's happening with e.g. Lattice Semiconductor Corporation, Intermolecular, Inc., Adesto Technologies Corporation, Rubicon Technology, Inc., On Track Innovations Ltd., Linear Technology Corporation, Diodes Incorporated, Quantenna Communications, Inc., Netlist, Inc., SunEdison Semiconductor Limited, Broadcom Limited, MoSys, Inc., GigCapital, Amkor Technology, Inc.?
It is just incredible to see that so many companies in this industry display very little or no patent activity whatsoever in relation to PCT applications, focusing perhaps only in the USA (further analysis warranted). As will be shown below, some of these companies used to file PCT applications, but progressively dropped filing. Is this a change in patent filing strategy or an indication of problems within these companies? Nonetheless, not using PCT applications in order to expand patent coverage is in itself telling that these companies do not expect or do not consider worthwhile patent protection on a global scale or elsewhere than in particular the USA, or even worse don’t even realize it. This has obviously implications for the investor who should be cautious. And what to say about these companies without a patent index, i.e. for approximately 40 companies? True that some of these companies do not use the PCT system for some reasons, e.g. only filing patent applications in the USA. Indeed, some companies like DQ, HIMAX, IMOS, JASO, LPTH, MPWR file for example mainly in the USA and China. What about them and others like ASX, CEVA, JKS?
Innovalpha has demonstrated that companies having a patent index fare better than companies who don’t. Hence, these companies are not the worst companies in all the companies analyzed. Investor should therefore consider avoiding these companies but not shorting them. It would be interesting for the investor to check the historical profiles of these companies which will give some perspective (see e.g. Figure 6).
Figure 8 shows the map location of the various semiconductors companies. Nearly all companies are located in the U.S.
The map is useful to immediately show if there's some diversification in the geographical location of companies selected. It is prudent for the investor not to select companies only located within one geographical region.
Figure 9 is the standard bubble chart showing Intel as outliner on the far right, with overall patent score on the Y axis and patent index on the X axis (the bigger the bubble, the higher the disruptive score). INTC, despite its size, is still an interesting company.
Figure 9 - INTC
Figure 10 displays a different view of the bubble chart which highlight its usefulness in identifying promising/interesting companies. This time we have Micron Technology as outliner on the far right, with patent value on the y axis and disruptive score on the x axis (the bigger the bubble, the higher the PI index). It clearly shows that there are very few companies with both a positive value and disruptive scores. In fact, only a few companies, as mentioned before, have positive disruptive scores and not much either with a positive value score.
Figure 10 - MU
Hence, this bubble chart indicates that many companies have not been able yet, have difficulties to put in place innovation management/strategy that creates value with very little disruptive capacity. Such bubble charts provide therefore useful new perspective for the selection of companies.
Figure 11 displays another view of the bubble chart with patent value on the y axis and risk score on the x axis (the bigger the bubble, the higher the PI index). Again Micron Technology is the best company taking into account value and risk. Patent risk scores are spread over an important range, from risky to safe companies.
Figure 11 - MU
Figure 12 shows the weekly patent scores over time of Micron Technology. Undeniable is the important surge in patent activity for this company, in particular in 2019, as can be seen from its patent index over time leading to an increase in the value, disruptive and risk scores. This should translate into new innovative products on the market.
Figure 12 - MU
Figure 12 shows as well a small decrease in patent activity until August 2017 before the steady and important increase. As such, this chart provides a good indication of the innovation capacity of this company since mid-2017. The investor should definitely select this company for further analysis.
Figure 13 shows MU’s scorecard. This provides some further information on the company. Based on the historical data used, MU is considered a mid-stage company, a disruptive, secure and innovation star, in a growth phase and in a second cycle of innovation. Further, it is in:
- first position within the technology sector for overall score, patent value and disruptive scores,
- eight position for its patent index and for the risk score.
Maximum and minimum values are indicated for the patent index and each score for the last year, three years and 260 weeks. Current scores correspond to the maximum values. Further, the scorecard indicates that all scores except for the risk score have increased by more than 50% in one year, a substantial increase!
Alert section triggered some time ago that the company is in a second cycle of innovation and is a mid-stage company.
Figure 13 - MU
Figure 14 displays MU’s patent index and stock price over time. The two are partially correlated since late 2014. MU’s patent index has increased substantially since mid-2017 and the stock price has increased from ~30 to ~45 during that time, however with a peak value of ~60 in July 2018 and decorrelation between the stock price and patent index, in particular for 2019.
Figure 14 - MU
Will this huge increase of MU’s PI in 2019 translate into a higher stock price? The probability seems high for such a scenario.
After all, innovation represents one of the core values of a company, in particular in the technology sector, with strong R&D/innovation and good innovation strategy/management translating into the filing of patent applications and hopefully in the launch of new products on the market.
Figure 15 shows the correlation between MU’s patent value score and its stock price over time. A higher correlation is expected between stock price and patent value score in view of the way it is computed (see above). A decorrelation is identified since mid-July 2018 representing possibly a buying opportunity. The question is not if, but when the gap will close.
Figure 15 - MU
The investor should therefore also check the historical patent profile of companies in order to immediately identify in a convenient way any modifications in their patent scores over time.
Figure 16 displays INTC’s scorecard. As mentioned, INTC is a heavy PCT filer with good scores, and with following qualifications: Disruptive, Growth phase, Secure, Innovation star, First Cycle of Innovation. However, the numbers show a decrease in patent activity taking into account 52 weeks maximum values, see also the values over time in Figure 17.
Figure 16 - INTC
Figure 17 shows the correlation between INTC’s patent index and stock price over time, somehow uncorrelated since late 2018. However, patent value score is still in positive territory, indicating that it is not necessarily the time to sell, on the contrary, a positive patent value score indicates strength. Figure 17 shows also that the patent index has constantly increased since late 2015 until late 2018, providing indication that the investor should have selected INTC around 2015-2016.
Figure 17 - INTC
Figure 18 shows the patent value score and stock price of AMD over time. It indicates that the investor should have considered AMD in March 2017 and that this company is still interesting in view that the patent value score is still in positive territory (in view of the substantial increase in AMD’s patent index in 2018).
Figure 18 -AMD
Figure 19 shows the patent value score and stock price of TXN over time. The patent value score is still in positive story with an important increase in the patent index in 2019 which warrants further analysis for portfolio incorporation.
Figure 19 - TXN
Figure 20 shows Integrated Device Technology (previously IDTI) overall patent score and stock price over time. IDTI was acquired in September 2018 by Renesas for $6.7 billion. Interestingly, the patent value score of this company indicated that the investor should have considered IDTI in June 2017 until even after its acquisition.
Figure 20 – IDTI acquired by Renesas
Figure 21 is an interesting graph of XLNX with patent value score and stock price over time, showing that the investor should have considered again this company in January 2016 until April 8, 2019, date where the patent value score falls below 0, a time where it would have been perfect to sell. As the patent value score is still in negative territory, it is preferable to avoid.
Figure 21 - XLNX
Figure 22 displays VIAV’s patent value score and stock price over time. Interestingly, it shows that it is possible to identify companies that have little patent activity. In this case, the investor should have considered VIAV already in 2016 at the least and still as of today as its patent value score remains in positive territory.
Figure 22 - VIAV
Figure 23 displays MCHP’s patent value score and stock price over time. It shows that this company should have been considered by an investor since at the least 2014 until October 2017, after which the patent value score enters negative territory, which is still the case as of today.
Figure 23 - MCHP
Figure 24 displays CCMP’s patent value score and stock price over time. It shows that this company should have been considered since 2014 until early 2017, with then a gap forming between the stock price and patent value score, still in negative territory as of today.
Figure 24 - CCMP
Figure 25 shows the patent value score and stock price of IMI. Interestingly here, monitoring the patent value score would have alerted the investor to be careful with this company already in February 2016. The stock price increased, however, considerably until March 2016 but followed by a substantial drop. The patent value score remains presently in negative territory. Alert has also been triggered for this company that there’s no patent activity since more than 26 weeks prompting the investor to be cautious.
Figure 25 - IMI
Figure 26 shows the patent value score and stock price of now private AMCC. The patent value score entered in positive territory in March 2016 until completion of acquisition in January 2017 by MACOM Technology Solutions, another evidence of the strength of the methodology.
Figure 26 – AMCC acquired by MACOM Technology Solutions
The above charts provide further evidence that an increase in patent scores can translate into an increase in the stock price (and in some instances that a decrease in patent scores can translate into a decrease in the stock price).
In this study on semiconductors companies filing PCT applications, it is shown once again the strength of the novel approach taken by Innovalpha relying on patent dynamics and cycles of innovation, in contrast to other methods that usually automatically provide a score to an individual patent, which is something already difficult to do for an expert. Obviously, the two approaches can be combined (patent applications and granted patents), but Innovalpha further demonstrates here that methods based on patent applications provide strong outperformance and are therefore reliable in the detection and selection of companies.
Based on their patent index, patent scores and historical profiles, investors should:
- Consider the following companies for further analysis, in their portfolio (long/hold): of particular interest is Micron Technology, Inc., others are Intel Corporation, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., followed by Applied Materials, Inc., Kyocera Corporation, Texas Instruments Incorporated, Integrated Device Technology, Inc., Everspin Technologies, Inc., Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, InvenSense, Inc., Atomera Incorporated, Finisar Corporation, Viavi Solutions Inc., NVIDIA Corporation, FormFactor, Inc., NeoPhotonics Corporation and STMicroelectronics N.V.
- Be cautious with Xilinx, Inc., Viavi Solutions Inc., Microchip Technology Incorporated and Cabot Microelectronics Corporation.
- Avoid the following companies, but not short them: Lattice Semiconductor Corporation, Intermolecular, Inc., Adesto Technologies Corporation, Rubicon Technology, Inc., On Track Innovations Ltd, Linear Technology Corporation, Diodes Incorporated, Quantenna Communications, Inc., Netlist, Inc., SunEdison Semiconductor Limited, Broadcom Limited, MoSys, Inc., GigCapital, Amkor Technology, Inc.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: The information provided in this document is given for indicative purposes only. Innovalpha Sàrl provides no assurance as to its completeness or accuracy nor the reasonableness of the conclusions based upon such information. This document is not intended to constitute an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of an investment program or of any one or more of the models mentioned in the document. There is no assurance that the models investment objectives will be achieved and investment results may vary significantly over time. Past performance should not be construed as a guide to future performance. The content of this document is subject to change without prior notification. All information and data presented in this document is for informational purpose only and should not be reproduced, distributed nor used without prior written authorization of Innovalpha Sàrl.