The percentage of companies which buy or sell patents is larger than the percentage of those which chose to stay out of the market, according to an IAM Global Benchmarking Survey released for 2015. A survey of corporate respondents found that 40 percent of operating companies have sold patents while only 5 percent cannot ever see themselves selling patent assets. On the flip side of the coin, 52 percent of operating companies responded that they have bought patents while only 2 percent could never see themselves buying patent assets.
Despite the large percentage of companies involved in patent market transactions, those deals don’t attract too much attention and much of the marketplace is conducted without much visibility. In an attempt to bring vendors and buyers in the patent space together with a high degree of both security and openness, IAM has stepped in to provide a patent and technology marketplace which has been operating over the past year.
As a publication, IAM has been reporting on intellectual property asset monetization for 13 years. “We’ve always regarded IP as a strategic business asset as opposed to simply a legal right,” said Gavin Stewart, managing director of IAM. Stewart said that the company noticed how opaque the patent market was over the course of covering that market for years and felt that there was an opportunity to allow companies to list both their patents and technology available for licensing or for sale. “We want to leverage the audience we have to provide cost-effective ways for companies to get the message out that they have IP assets to the wider IP world,” Stewart said.
According to Stewart, IAM Market functions as an adjunct to what the company already does in the world of intellectual property. Since its bi-monthly magazine launched in July 2003, IAM has grown to offer a daily blog service covering patent-related news as well as a weekly newsletter which has grown to a subscriber base of 27,000 individuals. The company hosts events all over the globe, including annual IP Business Congress conferences which provide a symposium on IP value creation and management as well as industry-themed events focused on topics such as automotive, software or energy-related IP. Annual reports such as the IAM Patent 1000 and the IAM Strategy 300 are also part of IAM’s offerings, featuring lists of the world’s top patent attorneys and IP strategists, respectively. Although IAM focuses mainly on patents, the IP division of Globe Business Media Group, of which IAM is a part, also includes the World Trademark Review which offers similar products and services in the trademark realm.
Stewart notes that IAM does not act as an intermediary or a broker for parties but rather offers an easy-to-access platform where parties looking to buy or sell patents within a certain technological space can communicate securely and privately. “We know that major corporations have these assets for sale,” Stewart said, “and we know how difficult it is to get the message out.” Stewart likened IAM’s activities to that of a matchmaker and added that he’s heard other people call the IAM Market “the Tinder of IP.”
Before launching the market last year, IAM reached out to major corporations and obtained commitments to use the platform from 15 vendors before the patent market began operations. In return, the initial vendors received a flat-fee deal to list as many assets as they wish over the course of the first year. Currently, IAM Market offers listings from 22 major corporate vendors including Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), IBM (NYSE:IBM), Boeing (NYSE:BA), Xerox (NYSE:XRX) and HP (NYSE:HPQ).
IAM Market is free to browse to any individual interested in perusing patent assets for sale by the top tech companies after registering for an account. Each vendor has its own page in the marketplace through which any observer can take a look at the technologies being marketed by the vendor company. For example, American telecom giant AT&T (NYSE:T) has six patent portfolios listed, the most recent additions related to Internet-enabled remotes for digital television, location-based gaming, mobile advertisements and noise cancelling tech for reducing background ambient noise. The page also identifies the industry sectors to which these portfolios are related, which in AT&T’s case includes automotive, health, beverages and financial along with telecommunications and computer services, as well as which portfolios are related; for example, all six of AT&T’s listed portfolios are related to telecom, whereas the mobile advertisement portfolio is the only one related to the beverage sector. Each vendor entry also contains links outside of IAM Market for more information as well as a message form for directly contacting patent licensing officials at that company.
Companies on the IAM Market also clearly identify the individual patent assets included in each portfolio. AT&T’s cloud based network management, security and data storage portfolio, for example, lists nine patent families and 16 granted patents. U.S. Patent No. 7334126, which is titled Method and Apparatus for Secure Remote Access to an Internal Web Server, protects a client authentication mechanism which allows for remote access through a public terminal of a server blocked by a firewall. U.S. Patent No. 8065413, entitled Method and System for Remotely Detecting Parasite Software, covers a technology which provides a method for Internet service providers to remotely and proactively identify parasite software on a customer’s computer before a customer would notice alone. U.S. Patent No. 8161194, titled Method and Apparatus for Flexible Network Management of Multiple Customer Virtual Private Networks discloses a technology for reconfiguring service provider operations in a way that is scalable for large networks without disrupting virtual private networks providing secure access to the Internet which is used by a customer.
Although the IAM Market is seen as successful through the first year of its operation, Stewart noted that one frustration stemming from running the marketplace was a lack of access to data about marketplace activity. “Because we’re not intermediaries, we’re not brokers,” Stewart said. “Communication between parties happens, but we’re not reading the communication.” As a result, not much is known about the level of sales and licensing activity occurring through the market or the value of those activities.
With 22 vendors currently on the IAM Market, the online portal has seen about 50 percent growth since launching last year. “To be honest, my ambition is that we’d be further down the road than we are now with vendors,” Stewart said. Although he was pleased with the patent marketplace’s current status, he’d be “plenty more pleased” when they have 50 or more vendors on the site. Stewart also expressed some surprise as to the amount of information available in some of theportfolio presentations provided by vendor companies to IAM Market. “These are major corporations looking to monetize assets, we thought they would just have presentation packs that could be uploaded, but in many cases it’s not,” he said. Regardless, Stewart indicated that IAM would continue working to grow its patent marketplace, supported by a dedicated marketing team as well as a client services team working for vendors. IAM Market is now also offering a service to vendors that will help them maximize the effectiveness of the presentations, guided in part by input provided by Richardson Oliver Law Group, a West Coast law firm which acts on behalf of many buyers in the patent market. “We’re investing quite a bit in this,” he said.