How great was it to see Hillary Clinton wearing a Charles Nolan scarf at the Inauguration?  (Long-time readers know that I’m a non-genetic Nolan.)  I would never have recognized it myself, but one of his surviving brothers, Kenneth, called to tell me.  (Kenneth is also a designer; Congresswomen frequently wear his clothes.)

But wait — there’s more.  Another of Charles’s brothers, David, is a priest.  Guess whom he was blessing while she was in make-up before going out to sing the National Anthem?

David would never have told me this himself — modesty runs in the Nolan family.  Kenneth told me.  So I called David for permission to tell you.  It seems Mr. and Mrs. Gaga have long been his parishioners.  Her dad came by the morning of the Inauguration to ask if they could Facetime his daughter for a blessing.

As a result of which (no doubt), she knocked it out of the ballpark.

Can you tell how proud I am to be a Nolan?

In case you missed the Inaugural Concert, here are Springsteen, Tom Hanks, John Legend, Katy Perry and loads more — with Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama in conversation.  Pretty cool.

In case, on the other hand, you refused to watch because you believe your guy was robbed, John Stuart Mill explained why, way back in 1869.  

Wayne A.:  “I was reading an old post where you suggested FedEx as a core holding.  A quick check shows that suggestion would have garnered an 11% annualized return over the 25 years since.  Plus dividends.”

→ The same money invested in BOREF when I first mentioned it (A Stock That’s Surely Going To Zero) would barely have doubled . . . which over those 21 years is a 3% compounded rate of return.  The difference between 3% and 12% (I’m adding 1% for the FedEx dividend) is the difference between $1 growing to $4 over 50 years versus $289; so I’d advise you, wherever possible, to find investments that compound at 12%.  And to eat well, floss, and walk up and down hills.

The question for those of us who’ve bought BOREF — many of us, including me, paying a lot more than that initial $3 a share — is: will the pay-off ever come?  Could BOREF hit $100 a few years from now, on (say) the 25th anniversary of my first mention?  Probably not, I guess.  (I don’t want to get my hopes up.)  Though if it did, it would represent a 15% annualized return on our by-then-25-year investment, leaving FedEx in the dust.

And yet part of my brain says, yes!  They just keep moving forward (last week: WheelTug Joins IATA As A Strategic Partner).  And at $100 a share, BOREF would be valued at $500 million — a lot to you or me, but a trifle compared to the economic benefit of cutting a few minutes off the ground time of thousands of commercial flights each day.  With WheelTug, airlines and airports could potentially increase their capacity by 10% or 15% without buying a single new plane or hiring a single new worker or building a single new terminal.  And passengers?  How pleased would we be to shave 10 or 20 minutes from the ground time of each flight we take?

So I hold on.  Patience is my middle name.

PRKR — I bought a little of this one at $1 and a lot more at a dime.  It’s been creeping up lately, likely in hopes of a favorable “Markman ruling” in its case against Intel this week.  If the ruling proves unexpectedly negative, the stock will tank; and if it proves positive, the stock might tank (“buy on the rumor, sell on the news”) — or it might find a new higher plateau.  All that really matters for patient investors (have I ever told you my middle name?) is whether someday a final judgment or settlement is reached in one of PRKR’s lawsuits that floods its coffers with cash.  If that ever happened, the stock would presumably trade a lot higher than its 67-cent closing Friday.  A triple from here?  A tentuple?

The broader issue is whether people who invent new things — and spend millions patenting them — can reap rewards from their inventions.  

The odds have become stacked ever more heavily against them.  Which may be one of the reasons former FBI director Louis Freeh decided to join the PRKR legal team.  America was built on invention.  (Well, slave labor; but invention, too.)

So what to do?

It’s a conundrum: 

> At one end of the spectrum you have meritless patent claims filed solely in the knowledge that — being so expensive to defend — the “patent troll” may get bought off.  Every reasonable means should be found to discourage such claims.

> At the other end, you have clear cases of patent infringement that should (somehow) be expeditiously remedied.

> In the middle are a great many legitimate, often-complex disputes where both sides strongly believe in the validity of their position.  How to make those quicker and less expensive to resolve?

Believing the system has come to be badly skewed in favor of giant corporations, US Inventor was formed to pull the pendulum back toward the center.   Its 40,000 members have access to a monthly live webcast.  PRKR’s CEO was interviewed last week.  If you own the stock (or are simply interested in the conundrum), watch and decide for yourself whether you think he is an abused inventor or a patent troll.  (To skip the brief overview, jump right in to where Jeff starts talking.)

CNF — The stock has performed miserably but remains one of my largest speculations.  I know one of the people involved, who’s both honest and successful; and I think China’s growth may continue.  



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