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eBay For Patents? 36

ContinuousPark writes: "Former UCLA professor Nir Kossovsky has created a website called The Patent & License Exchange. It's basically an eBay for intellectual property. The idea is that there are so many patents granted but yet very few real commercial applications of them. So now it's easier to buy licenses because patent holders will actively promote their patents in this marketplace. Now, I wonder what will happen when they start trading software patents? Would you buy a 1-Click patent or something as trivial as that? How much would you pay?"
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eBay For Patents?

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  • isnt it the terms of the patent that it belongs to the guy who invented it for 20 odd years ? can he "sell" all rights to it the same way as any other object ? and if he does and decides to use some of whats in the patent does he have to relicense it from the person he sold it to ?
  • Well, that'd probably depend on the patent and how much time/money I was able to devote to screwing people with it. Profit through litigation, after all, does seem to be a viable business model. ;^)


  • I wonder how good the descriptions will be.

    Half of a patent is obviously in the nature of the combination of ideas . . . very little value in the "nuts and bolts" of some patents.

  • This is sad, yet good. The thing is, no worthwhile patent will ever make it onto here. It will more like "Joe's Brainwashing Patent" that doesnt even work.....
  • Sounds like an interesting idea. How would the come get paid, comission? I wonder if it will catch on. And if it does I will buy stock (remember what happened to ebays stock).

  • The man who started this is better known for the pseudoscience he pushed in the Dow Corning breast implant trial, as well as the fake "detection kits" he sold. Don't touch any of this man's product with a ten-foot pole.

  • by Money__ ( 87045 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @11:00AM (#1129214)
    From the article: "Swiss Re New Markets, another equity stake holder, has stepped up to cover liabilities for companies who buy intellectual property that goes sour."

    Dear Plx,
    Regarding the amazon one-click item you sold me last week. One click!? pfffft yea right. I've clicked repeatedly and no books have appeared. I look forward to you're prompt handling of my complaint.
    John Q. Public

    On another note: Any company that would willingly put content on-line in .ppt format [] can't have all their oars in the water.

  • by CmndrKrypto ( 175418 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @11:03AM (#1129215)
    Coming soon:
    "One click, two click, red click, blue click... All patented."
    -apologies to Dr. Seuss

    Really though, this idea will only encourage more patenting of silly things. If people know there is a market for something, then they will create product to provide for that market. Accordingly, if this "e-bay for patents" becomes successful, we will have people patenting things that really shouldn't be patented (like one-click ordering) because they know they can sell them. Further, if they are selling them cheaply enough, the whole patent process is undermined: Rather than having to spend a few million dollars to challenge a frivolous patent, you can just buy it for $100. And given the volume this will create, the patent office will become even less careful about checking for prior art. Really, this idea just encourages people to patent everything in order to try and make a quick buck.

    But, I guess the domain name campers need something else to do now. . .
  • You raise an interesting point. Sure, this service might make things easier for a lot of people, but what about patenting stupid stuff like "1 click"? You shouldn't just be able to patent and sell just any term you like. Hopefully there will be (or are) some restrictions on to prevent this kind of thing.
  • hmm, Idiot Sans Serif does seem to be a popular font nowadays, doesn't it?


  • by orpheus ( 14534 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @11:10AM (#1129218)
    Obviously, it might be fun to poke through such a database, especially if it ever encompasses a significant fraction of the patents in force.

    However buying patent rights or licenses is definitely not something you want to do without a patent lawyer not merely approving, but preferably managing the process, to make sure you are buying the rights you need, now and in the future. Of course, if you're buying a patent or license, you'll want a lawyer to do a full patent search for any other applicable patents (at the PTO) anyway.

    This may put a different gloss on the breezy image of an 'ebay for patents'. This will be a place where entrepreneurs may want to rubberneck, but the serious business is transacted between lawyers.


  • I hope they patented it. ;-)
  • I already have a patent of selling patents on the internet. In fact, in my patent the place of exchange is called "The Patent & License Exchange". I guess I'll just have to put the patent up on the violator's website and see how much bid they'll put on it. Now that's meta-patent-selling-patent biatch!
  • These days the only thing that you can't readily sell is an unwilling 3rd party human.

    Anything else can be aranged. A patent is no exception. Just negotiate a price. However it usualy makes more sence to just license the pattent to someone. This is what makes pattents so valuable.

    In theory you invent something and can't aford a factory you shust license it to someone who can and grow fat from the royalties.
  • "I already have a patent of selling patents on the internet. In fact, in my patent the place of exchange is called "The Patent & License Exchange". I guess I'll just have to put the patent up on the violator's website and see how much bid they'll put on it. Now that's meta-patent-selling-patent biatch!"

    Oh yeah? Well I've got a patent on the selling of patents of selling patents on the internet! The place of exchange is called "The Patent & License Exchange Patent Exchange".

    Now that's meta-meta-patent-selling-patent, biatch!
  • while Loging in . . . Error 401
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    Lotus-Domino Release 5.0.1a


  • by Anonymous Coward
    FWIW, they have a competitor: []
  • by hypergeek ( 125182 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @11:44AM (#1129226)
    Unfortunately, for patent reasons, you must click twice to purchase the one-click shopping patent. We apologize for the inconvenience.

    The Management

  • Sorry about that. I've already patented this idea of an eBay for patents. Expect a lawsuit to follow. Oh yeah, and I'm going to sit on the patent, so don't expect any sites like this in the near future.
  • by Denor ( 89982 ) <> on Sunday April 16, 2000 @11:54AM (#1129228) Homepage
    After eBay and other online aution places got popular, a large group of 'helper' programs were created. Ones that would let you know when you'd been outbid, or others that would help you snipe off auctions.
    With this, I predict we'll see the same sort of helper applications emerging. By far the most used, however, will be:
    The Auto-Lawsuit Tracker!
    With all the lawsuits over patent infringements, how will you know who to sue when you get a new patent? Was Barnes and Noble infringing on that brand new invention you bought, or was it Netpliance? The Auto Lawsuit Tracker (patent pending) will keep track of the shifting patent battlefield for you!
    The Auto-Lawsuit Tracker - available at computer stores everywhere!
    Auto-Lawsuit Tracker deluxe edition - the deluxe edition will automatically send official cease-and-desist letters to people who appear to be violating your patent, whether or not they are actually doing any wrong! Auto-Lawsuit Tracker deluxe - it's not just the only way to punish the little guy, it's the best way!

  • I don't understand this at all. What am I buying when I go to this exchange? Suppose I want to buy Amazon's 1-click technology (Obligatory spit at Amazon). So what do I have when I hand over the money, and the contracts have been signed?

    Could I now turn around and sue Amazon? Since I am now the owner of 1-click, can I go to all licensees of Amazon and demand more money? Is Amazon obliged to tell me all the companies they have license 1-click to? What if I have an Open Patent []? Can I sell that too? And what of trademarks? Linus Torvalds hold the Linux trademark. Can he sell that and what would happen to Redhat if MS buys it?

    The way I see it, it just opens a whole can of worms. The field is ripe for lawyers to get rich!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    that "Rob Malda" is an anagram for "bad moral"?
  • No!

    You're buying a license. A license to use the process described in their patent. In your little scenario, Amazon owns the patent. They get payed the royalties/fees/whatever. Depending on the agreement, they may get to revoke your license. You and the other licensees have equal status, each at the whim of amazon, and with the right (perhaps temporary) to let people buy tings with "one-click technology."

    Hope that helps!

    Want to get a funny, free joke in your email every day, without ads? Email subscribe@ with the subject: subscribe joke
  • by Ashen ( 6917 )
    The whole purpose of patents is to reward innovation by granting someone exclusive rights to some sort of method or technology which the patent holder took the initiative to research/discover/invent/etc. Things like the one-click patent are rediculous because I really doubt it took Amazon much research or money to invent, it wasn't really innovative or deserving of a patent.

    But regarding this sell of patents, it kind of makes sense I guess, as long as the person selling a patent gets the money back that he spent researching the thing being patented. Unfortunately, I imagine this is just going to promote people trying to acquire silly patents that didn't cost them hardly anything and then try and sell them for outrageous prices.

  • What if I have an Open Patent? Can I sell that too?
    What should happen, or rather what I would like to be able to happen, is that if you've licensed one of your patents under Open Patent License, [] (still in development at, but someone else's use of the patent would not comply with the OPL given the Option you chose, then they should still be able to go to you to try to purchase some sort of other license for your patent.

    (I have thought about at some point letting patent-holders who've submitted their patents under one of the Options of the Open Patent License to sell non-Open Patent licenses through the site as well, where those sales would incur a small commision, all as a way of making the site self-funding in the long term. But all that's a ways off still--the first priority is to do the main Open Patents work first. However, I wasn't planning on listing non-Open Patents with that service, since I think that would be counter to the main goals of the site and organization.)

  • a Beowulf cluster of these...mmmmm...
  • by yuriwho ( 103805 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @04:56PM (#1129235)
    This is a very interesting idea. As an inventor on three biotech related patents I can see the value of a site such as this. Some universities don't have the tech savvy marketing teams to find and pitch a patent to the right company. My patents were liscenced long before they issued and thus wouldn't have benefitted from this exchange. The marketing was done by my former advisor not the university. Since then I have met several scientists who have invented exciting new technologies but do not have the business savvy to attract investors and start a company themselves nor do they (or their universities) have the marketing savvy to find the right company to liscence the technology.

    More than anything I would love to see a database of patent applications up for auction. Currently it is hard to get info on patent applications. A site containing a database of patent applications up for bidding would really attract attention as that info is not readily available in the freemarket. They could probably be profitable by selling access to their database alone. If you cant find companies to liscence your patent application you can put it online to the highest bidders. You would be tipping your hand to potential competition but at the same time you would be accelerating tech transfer.

    To the above posters to feel that such a system would just encourage people to patent anything, the solution to this problem is to reform the USPTO such that they don't grant patents frivilously. Remember that a patent must be sucessfully defended in a court to really be worth its words.

    To think about this patent-auction site reasonably you have to forget about software patents and think about all technology based patents. For many scientific areas this could be a great thing.

  • by orpheus ( 14534 ) on Sunday April 16, 2000 @05:19PM (#1129236)
    1) It's nothing new. It's commonly done, and many famous historical patents have been sold (e.g. many 'cotton gin' patents, though I can't recall if Cyrus McCormick's was ever sold) PL-X will not change the fundamentals of patent sales any more than e-bay changed the fundamentals of yard sales

    2) You can buy licenses [to use the patented idea in a specified way] or the patent itself [acquiring all the *created* rights the original owner had]. Since companies generally negotiate the license that they buy, that than buy 'take-it-or-leave-it' deals like a shrinkwrap licenses, the extent of a license can vary dramatically. Many commercial licenses, for example, allow the buyer to 'sub-license' the technology to others (with conditions)

    3) One right that cannot genuinely be sold is the right to a place in the history books (though it is not incredibly uncommon for patent purchases to include language that pushes the seller to imply the patent was the original property of the buyer)

    The PTO generally retains the original patent owner in its public records. [I vaguely recall that there have been exceptions, especially after lawsuits. Can anyone offer us the details?]

    MS likes to claim they 'innovated' technology when they simply purchased the full copyright rights to a product that embodies or utilizes a principle. We could be charitable and assume that, since they didn't create it, they did not understand the extent or limits of the innovation they purchased, and the meaning of 'buying a patent.

    That would be an *extremely* charitable concession to MS, but excessively 'free and easy' sales of patents could increase the number of legitimate misunderstanding or disagreement over what was bought or sold. HOTLINE's license is an example, IIRC

    4) Patent rights are not *that* dissimilar to many property rights in other types of property, so while it's possible to make arguments that make patent rights seem bizarre, they often aren't. You can buy a piece of land, for example, even though the 'original owner' obtained it by homestead or other grant of rights by the government (and not by actual purchase from the native Americans). Most private real estate in the US falls into this category

    5) Many of the arguments made in this discussion are illusory (one must obtain a patent from the PTO before selling it) But other seemingly silly sounding arguments are not (it is possible to buy 'rights' in a patent before it is granted, but those rights can't be exercised with full weight until they actually materialize -- when the patent granted) In between is a vast grey area that is the realm of the courts -- it's often worthwhile to take a shot. Then again, in the current legal environment, what isn't that way?

    6) You can build a device for personal use even if it is directly based on an existing patent. Just don't expect to ever sell it. I'll repeat that: YOU CAN COPY AND USE A PATENTED IDEA FOR YOUR OWN USE WITHOUT A LICENSE. IANAL, but that's been a longstanding principle (the cotton gin was an example: plantations often had a factory or blacksmith make them a private custom unit, rather than buy McCormick's commercial version) Don't count on the courts to stand beside you if a cyber-company targets you, though.

    7) The problem with the "e-bay" analogy is that patent sales are not simple purchases with a large body of consostent prior law behind it. Patent and License sales (between companies) are usually custom negotiations.

    A lot of companies have faltered when the critical patent belonged to one of the principles, and not the company itself. A lot of inventors have been unhappy to learn they no longer controlled the patent that belonged to their company -- including rights to derivative development.


  • I think those kind of restrictions would be in what you can patent, and not where you can sell it. I'm sure the opinion of a patent market place is "if the USPTO granted it, we'll market it." The fact that the USPTO will grant anything, regardless of whether it's an original idea, your idea, or an idea at all. That doesn't matter much to the marketers of the patent.
  • So his new theory is: "If your bogus patents don't last long, see if someone else's will?"
  • A "$25,000" patent for a hundred bucks? Sure they will, and they'll make a profit in volume. The research behind most patents, particularly ones sold here, is minimal. Even if "one-click technology" did take $25,000 to develop, if you have 10,000 online stores who want to license the obvious, the revenue at $200 is a nice $2,000,000 -- very substantial!

    Here's to a Wal-mart selling the obvious!

  • The last year I've seen and read several swedish and other european "management gurus" telling their customers to patent everything in the US, obvious or not, profitable or not.

    The word is out: The US patent office has lost their grip, you can get a patent for almost anything. If *you* do not patent your idea, someone else *will*

    Take any everyday action, such as typing, asking your friend for help, order a book or a freaking pizza. Fill in a patent application vaguely describing a method for doing the same on the web and cross your fingers.

    You have a company? Get a list of *everything* you do and get it patented. (Oh wait, perhaps you could patent the very idea of having a company? Fill in an application, it just might work.)

    This is not just a slashdot anti-patent rant, it is (apart from some extrapolations of mine) advice given by some really deep thinkers. (and of course the armada of wanna-bes)

    Their message is: The americans have lost control of their once good patent system. Run with the herd or get run over.

  • Mr. Kossovsky has been in trouble with the federal government(the FDA mostly) for his work in the field of Silicon Gel Breast implants (SBIs). Used as a witness for the thousands of women who were complaining of side effects from SBIs that don't exist. His junk science, which could easily be completed before the real science (which takes quite a long time) was enough to destroy companies (the settlements put DOW Corning into bankruptcy). I found it very iteresting that the article didn't mention any of his involvement in the SBI mayhem or even his work in the field, as his last company was set up to sell kits to detect the "Anti-silicon Antibody" He argued that there was an anti-immune response from the BIs which came from the silicon acting as an adjuvant. It seems that Kossovsky is far more interested in making money than he is in helping people. His "research" related science has been put aside to push his claims and make a buck out of mass hysteria when it suits him, this would not be my choice of someone to do business with.
  • There are around a dozen competitors to this site. Patents have usually been licensed exclusively to one party in the past, but now patent owners are beginning to license them non-exclusively, much like most software is licensed. Licenses can be written to allow any type of use of the patent (if the price is right).

    Universities often license the rights in a patent prior to its issue, because companies want to establish exclusive rights to an invention in order to gain funding for the development of that right. I suspect there are fewer opportunities to buy a patent outright than there are to acquire a license.

    Patents are good for 20 years from the date of application, although much negotiation goes on prior to issue. Fees are due periodically throughout the patent's life as well.

    It will be interesting to see how successful these sites are -- how well they drive potential licensees to their site.

  • You're buying a license.

    Unless, of course, you buy the patent itself. As IP is just another form of property there is, presumably, nothing to stop the owner from signing over all rights to another person/corp, for a suitably agreed sum of money (or other renumeration).

    However, in this example, you would not then be able to sue Amazon, unless the terms of the sale did not allow them to continue to use the technology. You also presumably would not be able to just break whatever contracts Amazon had with its licencees; IANAL, but that would not seem right to me (not that that usually seems to make a great deal of difference...).



"Just the facts, Ma'am" -- Joe Friday