Friday, March 03, 2006

ANXIETY LEVELS RISE AS PATENT AUCTION LOOMS: On April 5, Chicago-based patent consulting firm Ocean Tomo LLC plans to hold a semi-annual patent auction at the Ritz Cartlon in San Francisco. The firm will put on the auction block approximately 400 patents pertaining to semiconductors, RFID, wireless communications, automotive technology, food, energy and the Internet. The patents will be grouped in 68 blocks ranging in estimated value from $100,000 to more than $5 million.

The patents will be grouped into lots when they relate to a common area. Some lots will include additional material such as prototypes of products, inventor notebooks, and, in one case, 80 hours with the inventor to aid in transferring expertise. At the end of each auction, Ocean Tomo will get 25% of the sale price.

The offerings include patents for Motorola bar code technologies and biochip technology, patents for a Clorox bleach activator and a Ford four-wheel steering system. Also included will be patents from Kimberly-Clark on a new shrink-wrap that the company has decided not to commercialize, as well as 20 patents issued to BellSouth in areas that are no longer part of its core business, such as search-engine technology. The complete list (310 pages) of patents may be purchased from Ocean Tomo here.

Of course, in one of Ocean Tomo's previous auctions, the infamous 39 patents from CommerceOne were sold for $15.5 million. These patents were perceived to be so broad that they had a potentail to cause major havoc in the Internet industry if they fell into the "wrong hands" (read: a patent holding company). Eventually it was learned that Novell purchased the patents under the pseudonym "JGR Acquisitions" to prevent such companies from getting their hands on the patents.

While no such patents have been identified (yet) among the patents to be auctioned, concerns are growing whether a similar scenario can play out. A number of high profile holding companies are expected to attend the upcoming auction, and it is anyone's guess who will be buying what.

Regardless of what you may think about some of the bidders, Ocean Tomo is staking out some revolutionary territory in the areas of patent valuation and patent commerce. Instead of relying on labor-intensive licensing and litigation tactics, the bidding system created by Ocean Tomo will likely create an active trading market (the company even referred it to being the "EBay of IP") for moving IP assets into the stream of commerce.

Read more information from CNet article here.

Another informative article by BusinessWeek.

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