CHANGE HAS BEEN IN THE AIR AT RPX CORP.,
the San Francisco-based defensive patent aggregator. Three new members
have joined RPX’s board of directors in
the last year. Founder and CEO John
Amster resigned in February after he
and the board reached an impasse on
Amster’s plan for a private sale; general
counsel Marty Roberts was promoted
to CEO. Andy Block and Neal Rubin
joined as senior vice presidents from
Time Warner Cable and Cisco Systems
Then in April, Mallun Yen announced
that she is leaving her executive vice president role in September. Yen is a former
intellectual property chief at Cisco who
worked with RPX from its inception in
2008—first as a client, then formally coming aboard in 2010. But Yen isn’t leaving
RPX altogether. She too is taking a position on RPX’s board of directors.
Corporate Counsel caught up with
Yen to reflect on her decade working
with RPX. The company’s mission has
been to derisk patent litigation, whether
by acquiring dangerous patents on behalf
of its 350 members, offering patent litigation insurance, or compiling data that
helps demystify the industry. The interview has been edited for clarity and space.
CORPORATE COUNSEL: There’s been a lot of
change at the top of RPX. By joining the
board are you looking to help maintain
MALLUN YEN: The short answer is yes. But
the longer answer is the majority of the
current leadership of RPX has been with
the company for a long time. Marty and
[Chief Revenue Officer] Steve Swank
joined right around the time I did.
Neal Rubin, my longtime colleague at
Cisco, was the chief litigation officer there.
Andy Block was the former chief legal officer at Time Warner Cable, which was one
of our customers. I’ve known them both a
very long time. So those are two new additions that have been part of the industry
and this effort, and have worked closely
with us for many, many years.
I will continue to be involved in this
company. I care a lot about its success. But
the role of a board member is different.
So I’ll be focused on overall direction and
CC: I know you’ve taken a lot of pride in
laying the groundwork for some of RPX’s
syndication deals. Do you expect to continue playing a role on that level as well?
MY: We’ve done over 30 large syndicated
deals, so we’ve gotten pretty good at putting them together. They’re enormously
complicated, but we have a deep bench
that’s gotten very good at doing them.
The first time we decided to go big,
it was the Nortel bankruptcy auction in
2010. Back then the syndicated deal was
a fairly foreign idea. We had to explain to
the potential participants what it was, why
working together would be more efficient
than doing it separately, why it made sense
to try to take out a large portfolio, etc.
Luckily, we’ve done so many since
then, the clients understand this and
they understand the benefit of it. So even
though [the deals] remain very complex,
the clients have really been a key part of
bringing them together and executing on
CC: You said in your announcement that
when you first joined RPX, assertion
entities were bringing patent lawsuits in
faraway venues—I assume that referred
to Texas. Is the focus now shifting even
further away, beyond U.S. borders?
MY: Yes, that’s right. We’ve certainly seen
a rise in litigation in Germany and in
China, and our clients are certainly looking at these areas and trying to understand them more and more, as are we. So
RPX actually has done a number of deals
involving German litigation, because
there’s a perceived growing threat there.
EXIT INTERVIEW: RPX EXECUTIVE VP MALLUN YEN
BY SCOTT GRAHAM