How a Dating Service for IP Could Turn Patent Trolls Into White Knights
At Demo 2013, a firm called idealAsset showed off a product that helps would-be buyers and sellers of intellectual property find each other. Could this sort of matchmaking convince patent trolls to acquire IP by nobler means?
Fri, October 18, 2013
CIO — Of the products presented at Demo 2013 this week, one in particular hit a nerve for me. Our intellectual property system (IP) is broken; people who need access to patents often can't get to them, and the market is awash with patent trolls stealing from legitimate companies that struggle for success. While there's a lot of pressure to fix the systems that make this kind of banditry legal, it will likely have to wait for an administration that actually understands the issue.
So it was with some interest that I watched a presentation by a small company called idealAsset. Its product, idealAsset Match, is basically a dating service for folks who want to sell, buy or license intellectual property. As patent trolls figure out that their business model will eventually implode, they are looking at tools such as idealAsset Match to help them transition from being a hated troll to a beloved white knight.
Looking for IP in All the Right Places
IdealAsset scans internal (with permission) and external databases for intellectual property (mostly patents) available for sale or license and uses a semantic engine to index and organize the IP. Then — much like a dating site — it captures the interests of those looking for patents and creates a match. IdealAsset then provides contact information for firms looking to buy a particularly type of asset to those who are selling it, and vice versa, under a granular scale organized by closeness of match. This lets both sides focus their sales and purchase efforts more on the acquisition process and less on the location process.
The simple user interface not only provides information on the asset and who to talk to on both sides of the potential acquisition but also captures and reports related information on the companies involved. This information may include recent similar acquisitions, related mergers or news about the firm's products, services or executive changes. This way, both parties enter the transaction process with a deep knowledge of the asset and the kind of firm they are doing business with. This could be of interest if, for instance, two firm are about to become competitors — which might reflect on the contract or whether the transaction should be undertaken in the first place.
Turning Trolls Into Legitimate Patent Brokers
The fascinating back story here is the interest by existing patent trolls, who apparently are using this tool to identify areas where development is happening (think schools), then offer to pay for and execute the patent process in exchange for a license that lets them sell or license, taking a share of the revenue that results. If they can't find a market in an agreed time, the license expires, leaving the originating organization with a wholly owned patent.