Intellectual Property is in the news this week not as a protected right or possession, but as an investment. A firm called Ocean Tomo has annouced that they will hold the first ever live patent auction on April 5th at the Ritz Carlton San Francisco. Admission to the auction is a ritzy $1500.00, and a glossy catalog of the 400 patents up for auction is $500.00. The catalog features the income each patent currently collects in licensing agreements, and the history of litigation of the patent. Potential bidders have the opportunity to calculate future suits and resulting settlements based on past litigation history.
The patents are not being sold individually, but in portfolios, like stocks. They are categorized by technology area. These areas include but are not limited to bar codes, RFID chips and scanners, medical technology, automotive technology, and financial services. There are 68 lots in total.
According to a statement on Ocean Tomo’s website by their vice chairman, the company creates a space where “Intellectual Property sellers may achieve world record prices.”
Ocean Tomo’s ability to hold this auction is granted by patent laws whose purpose is to encourage innovation. Patents were never intended to be held for ransom. Patent law is stifling innovation, and if we allow it to continue, we will become a stagnant society. Existing patent law has made it more profitable to hold patents and file suits against patent users than to innovate on them. The people who are profiting from this system will continue to fund it and lobby for it. We must fight back.