Alticor took the unusual step earlier this month of announcing in a press release that it planned to sell the wireless charging IP developed by its subsidiary, Fulton Innovation, an internal skunk works division that works on product innovation.
The company initially created the technology to power its eSpring line of UV water filters, but handed it over to Fulton Innovation to see where else the technology could be applied. That put the company into unfamiliar territory, consumer electronics, which could be fitted with adaptive devices that allowed for wireless charging.
Now, the company said the technology is rapidly evolving to the point where it would better to hand off the technology to a new suitor who could expand its adoption and scope.
“It’s a good time to sell the IP and exit the business, really to give the business the opportunity to expand with an owner in the business of consumer electronics or computer manufacturing,” said Jim Weaver, vice president at Alticor. “They could bring the technology to life through their product lines.”
While Fulton Innovations developed more than 240 worldwide patents and has another 480 patents pending behind the technology, the business of wireless charging was too far away from Amway’s focus on health, wellness, beauty and direct selling, he said. To really advance the technology, the company felt it was time to find an outside buyer and exit the business.
“While licensing is something we understand, we don’t have the ability to make power chips or phones,” Weaver said. “Now seems like a good time to (sell the IP). The market seems to be right.”
If the sale happens, it would be the first time in the company’s more than five decades in operation that it sold IP it developed, Weaver said. That’s because it is mainly focused on its core business and never has had “as big of a patent estate in a big, emerging market” as it does with the eCoupled technology, he said.
But rather than find an investment banker to quietly identify a buyer, make the transaction and then make the announcement, Amway is changing up that order. It led with the announcement that it wants to sell the technology, is in the process of wrapping up a contract with an investment banker, and then plans to shop around the technology to suitors.
Sources in the investment banking industry that spoke with MiBiz said the move seemed to indicate the company didn’t ascribe much value to the technology and wanted to walk away from it.
Weaver insists that is not the case. He said the company chose to go about the process in the order it did out of fairness and transparency to the employees that worked on the technology and to the company’s licensing partners, some of which could be interested in buying the IP.
“If we didn’t think it had any value, we would have quietly exited the business,” Weaver said. “We think differently. … This is valuable IP to sell.
“We are not in any hurry to sell this. We want to do it the right way. And I’ve been candidly surprised how many people have expressed an interest. We’ve got a good business now, but we think it will be a great business in the right hands, and we want to help it along the way.”
While Amway does want to get out of the wireless charging business, it sees the eCoupled technology as a “big success for the Amway business.” The company plans to continue licensing the technology to use in its water filters and other products.
“We’re proud,” Weaver said. “There’s no doubt that wireless power is in our future. To be a pioneer in creating that market space is a success, not a failure.”