RPX Corporation, a defensive patent collector, didn't mind telling the NYT's Saul Hansell that it was the buyer that purchased Lot 19 for $300,000. The blog post quotes RPX CEO John Amster, who brokered a settlement with Acacia Research Corp. on behalf of his members in January in one lawsuit.
The first patent auction held by the firm since the economic crisis began did not go well. In fact, the sell-off proved even more anemic that Ocean Tomo’s loudest naysayers had predicted it would.
While some folks I spoke to before the auction said they expected sales this year to be down by as much as 50 percent from last year, the final results were much worse. Friday’s auction took in just under $2.9 million—more than 80 percent less than the roughly $17 million in patent sales generated by the company's San Francisco auction last year.
Out of more than 80 lots of patents on the block, only six sold. (An Ocean Tomo auction "lot" can include a single patent, several patents, or a portfolio of patents in related technology.) Ocean Tomo tacks on a 10 percent fee paid by buyers, and also charges fees to sellers, meaning the company probably took in less than $1 million for itself.
I wasn't able to spend too much time Thursday at the Ocean Tomo events taking place in San Francisco, but I did manage to sneak in a few interesting conversations with folks in town for the events. One person I sat down with was Steven Hoffman, the CEO of ThinkFire, an IP consultancy and patent brokerage firm. Hoffman and I talked for a while in the Ritz-Carlton's lobby as it slowly filled up with patent wheelers & dealers talking business (or at least talking about the business they wish they were doing.)
This is the second Ocean Tomo event I've attended. Last year, the whispers in the hallways of the Ritz-Carlton were that Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myhrvold's giant patent-holding firm, would be buying, depending on who was doing the whispering, half or two-thirds or perhaps even more of the patents going on the auction block. (Patent sellers at Ocean Tomo are identified, but the anonymity of purchasers is rigorously protected.)
This year, the talk in the halls is about how much smaller that number will be. No real surprise there: patents aren't immune to the vagaries of the wider economy. And Hoffman says conversations that he has had recently leave him believing that Intellectual Ventures, Ocean Tomo's biggest patent buyer, may indeed be moving out of its "acquisition" phase.
"IV will buy less—they will be less aggressive," says Hoffman. "I just don't know how much they're going to re-trench."
I'm happy to announce that IP Law & Business has a brand-spanking-new website up at IPLB.com. We'll have more content, updated more often, including:
All of the content in the IPLB print edition will now be available online: free and freely linkable.
Much more content will be available through the site than before. IPLB.com will include the most interesting IP-related coverage from our sibling publications, like The Recorder, The American Lawyer, and Law.com; as well as links to the most interesting copyright, patent, and trademark legal news from around the web.
IPLB.com now includes two years of the magazine's archives, organized by issue. Access to the archives is free with registration.
Current and archived IPLB material is searchable with the Quest search tool, which can also be used to search throughout the Law.com network or the legal web.
An IPLB RSS feed is available as well (see upper right corner of new site).
More features, including a weekly e-mail newsletter, are on the way.
The Prior Art has a nice new home on IPLB.com, in the grey box on the left hand column. If you're mainly a TPA blog reader, you don't have to change anything; this blog will continue to publish at its current URL, and whether you read by e-mail, RSS, or browser, things should look and act the same. But if you like the blog, I think you'll like the new site; so check it out!
This week: the lawsuit against Amazon you have heard about, and the
lawsuit against Amazon nobody has heard about. Plus, defendants launch
retaliatory lawsuits against a small software company and the world's
largest software company; an Oregon lawyer-inventor creates a new batch
of litigation; a Scott Harris suit moves to the defendant's home turf; and
the bell rings on yet another round in Blackboard v. Desire2Learn's patent spat over
Going After Amazon, Part I (or Throw the e-Book at 'Em)
Discovery Communications Inc. v. Amazon.com Inc., 09-cv-00178, D. Delaware, filed 3/17/09.
This one has been well-cover covered: see MarketWatch, WSJ, and CNET, among others; see also Discovery's press release.
The CNET story includes Discovery's non-response to Greg Sandoval's
question: even if it wanted to, is there a Discovery
Communication unit that could even build an e-reader to compete with the Kindle? ("We are
only focused on the Kindle at this time," says Discovery.) Discovery Communications has been on the receiving end
of a few patent lawsuits over the past decade, but has never before
filed as a plaintiff. Discovery is represented by Michael Jacobs of Morrison Foerster, the San Francisco IP lawyer best known for pummeling SCO on behalf of Novell.
Going After Amazon, Part II (or, Please make a donation. Really. We insist.)
The Tobin Family Education And Health Foundation et al. v Amazon.Com, Inc., 09-cv-00160, M.D. Florida, filed 3/17/09.
In this edition, a lawyer-inventor wants a royalty on cell phone 911 calls; a RIM subsidiary fires off a lawsuit at Motorola; a small Chicago trading firm takes on two big banks; and a fight over a piglet-saving vaccine.
Going After Big Banks
Edge Capture LLC et al. v. Barclays Bank PLC et al., N.D. Illinois 09-cv-01521.
Holding company Edge Capture and partner Edge Specialists LLC sued two international banks--Barclays and UBS--as well as a Chicago-based trading technology company, Wolverine Trading, for patent infringement.
Edge Capture owns two patents issued in 2007, 7,251,629 and 7,177,833, while Edge Specialists LLC is an "independent software vendor" owner by inventor Thomas M. O'Donnell, who has extensive experience in financial markets.
In its suit, O'Donnell's company emphasizes its "extensive United States patent protection" for its trading tools. The plaintiffs are represented by a legal team at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, led by powerhouse patent litigator Ron Schutz, who has won big awards for St. Clair IP Consultantsand Grantley Patent Holdings, among others.
Michelle Lee, Google's head of patents and patent strategy, wrote a post on a company blog this week calling for a renewed effort at patent reform. In the post, Lee mentions the fact that non-practicing patent holding companies—which represent 90% of patent infringement allegations against her company—are very often controlled by patent lawyers, who sometimes take the next step and claim inventorship themselves. "The temptations and opportunities for abuse have gotten too high," writes Lee.
Consider this: Of the 20 patent lawsuits filed against Google
since late 2007, all but two have been filed by plaintiffs who don’t
make or sell any real product or service — in other words, by
non-practicing entities or “patent trolls.” Most of these cases seem to
feature the same small set of contingent fee plaintiff's lawyers
asserting patent claims against the same small set of companies. We've
also noticed a more disturbing trend: in many of these cases, the
patents being asserted against us are owned by — and in a surprising
number of cases, are even “invented” by — patent lawyers themselves.
She concludes by opining that chances for patent reform in 2009 look better than they did in the past Congress.
More this week on patent reform: Zusha Elinson writes about Silicon Valley gearing up for the patent reform debate. More coverage of early jockeying for position in the 2009 patent reform debate on Patently-O and 271 Patent Blog.