ICG, IBM will launch patent site

Internet Capital Group (ICG) and IBM have announced they will create an electronic marketplace for the buying and selling of intellectual property.

The development places ICG, a developer of online marketplaces for business, in a competitive field. At least six sites already list information on patents for sale. These sites, along with the ICG-IBM venture, are designed to help ease what currently is a tangled process. Patents are often highly complex, making it a time-consuming process to find the right buyer. In addition, it's often difficult for a lone inventor with a patent for sale to approach a wealthy company about a deal.

"It's hard to walk up to Sony's door and say, ‘I have something interesting I think you might look at,' "says Curtis Karnow, an intellectual property attorney with Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. "You have to work through contacts." By listing patents on the Net, online patent marketplaces provide an easy reference point for buyers and sellers. ICG's planned site will not only list patents for sale, but will also help link potential patent buyers to attorneys or others who can help with the research required before a purchase is made.

"What we're trying to do is go out and address the entire need of the user," says Peter Vanderheyden, acting chief executive of the new site, which will be based in Chicago. The new marketplace, whose name officials declined to disclose, will launch in the third quarter of this year. ICG and IBM plan to make money from the site by charging subscription and transaction fees once a sale takes place. The two companies are not starting from scratch with this venture. The new venture has acquired an existing intellectual-property network established by IBM in 1997. IBM's online database has grown to more than 30 million listings of patents in the US and Europe and gets an average of 1.3 million hits daily.

Anyone will be able to access the new patent site; however, ICG expects early users to be lawyers, marketers, students, researchers and companies.

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