Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Patent Brokerage Gains Addition With LegalForce IP

This week marks the official beta launch of LegalForce IP, an on-line IP brokerage and outsourcing company, that has taken a page out of the Wiki/Web 2.0 approach to valuation and selling of patents. Part eBay, part MySpace, and part LinkedIn (the web interface has an eerie resemblance to early versions of LinkedIn), LegalForce is attempting to create a webspace where entrepreneurs and investors can find patents and exchange ideas on a more open platform.

The site's search engine allows users to find patents, and provides contact information for all patent attorneys in the US, and even some non-US attorneys as well. Eventually, the goal is to provide access to all U.S. patents and provide related profiles of inventors, owners and attorneys associated with particular patents.

The entry of LegalForce expands the ranks of similarly-situated companies such as Patent Cafe and Yet2.com, who have patent listings, but offer them mainly as part of a consulting package and typically place offers only on the behalf of paying clients. Ocean Tomo, which operates mainly as a merchant bank (and also uses Yet2.com's platform), helps place values on patents to help facilitate buying and selling. Twice a year, Ocean Tomo hosts live auctions of patents, and has an upcoming auction scheduled for April 18-19 here in Chicago (see here).

According to LegalForce's webpage, anyone can list patents for sale or license for free until June, and only pay $299 to list patents afterwards (trademarks can be listed for $99). Members of the public can browse through the offered patents for free anytime, and can join "groups" to collaborate on evaluating or obtaining specific patents. LegalForce also publishes a set of white papers on various IP-related topics, to help users understand the processes used for their service (see paper on valuation here).

Matt Marshall from VentureBeat took the patent interface out for a test ride and posted his report here.

Jim Moore, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, also viewed the site, and posted this favorable article on the idea.

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