December 16, 2008

The IP Store?

During the recent weeks there has been heavy posting in the blogosphere regarding new breeds of IP companies, where RPX (covered here and here) perhaps have gotten most attention, with their interesting business model of being an anti-NPE. Also seeing much attention is two even more interesting breeds; Article One Partners ( covered here) and its open source cousin Open Invention Network (again covered by Securing Innovaton, here).
There is however more commotion in related fields like patent valuation, where the search for the golden standards still goes on (e.g. here ) and another conceptual thought on the subject here.
Yet another interesting new breed of service is launched by Stanford (discussed here) where IP related data will be public. Last but not least, the FTC hearings some time ago, both parties (Intellectual Ventures vs. "rest of the world") agreed that more data is something they all would like to see.
These recent postings have lead me into thinking what an IP marketplace could look like.

What is an efficient IP market?
I would believe that many people want to look at the IP market the way we have looked at every other marketplace the last half century or so. Now pursuing a thesis within Patent Valuation I can also conclude that academics sometime try and fit a square peg in a round hole with applying classical financial theories to an IP setting. The most striking being that not even all authors are clear on what a patent actually is and many also dive head into the logic of patents=products. Whether you are pro or con NPEs they at least crush that myth with their business model. Looking at a (IP) market with the view that it is a means of generating revenue elsewhere (i.e. products or services), then it is not difficult to see how people are working hard to closing the NPEs "loophole".

This has me thinking, how would this be handled, would you have to be a producing company to be able to litigate or perhaps wider use of cross licenses as damages or perhaps just less damages could be solutions. Anyhow - these are all complex and strive towards "fixing" an existing loophole. Arguments are often that litigation intensity and cost have people running away from patents and keeping things secret instead. I sometimes wonder if perhaps more effort should be put into building a new marketplace suited for IP rather than trying to jam IP into the existing product market.

What if all would change and instead of buying and selling patents, companies get more savvy and leverage licensing schemes instead and remaining the owner of the patent, thus not giving NPEs enforcement options. Now I know there are inherent flaws with this, where the biggest perhaps is the difficulties to match two parties. This is why I am so glad that the "big fish" seem united in thinking that more data is needed and I am also really exited about the new Stanford service. A part from those progresses I still believe that much can be done by just trying to build such a (or any other) marketplace from scratch and having legislators set the norms proactively rather than obtaining a large backlog and reacting to whatever loopholes people find. Just look at the way Apple constantly set the norms by setting up marketplaces like Itunesstore and Appstore.
So question is - is there a Steve Jobs in any PTO?

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