Joff Wild

There may be a great deal of fog surrounding the US patent system at the moment, but that did not seem to matter too much in San Francisco yesterday at the Ocean Tomo spring IP auction. Far from being wary of investing big money in patent acquisition given today’s uncertain environment, the buyers were out in force as records were smashed in what sounds like an afternoon of frenetic bidding.

Although not there myself, and although there has been no official confirmation yet from OT, I have been told that a total of over $18.5 million was raised, with 53 out of 85 lots (62%) being sold. And if previous OT auctions are anything to go by, more will be sold in post-auction trading. There were eight lots sold for $500,000 and above, including $6 million paid by a telephone bidder for a portfolio of more than 80 patents being offered by the company Discovision. This is a world record for a single patent auction lot, beating the previous best of $4.5million raised at the OT auction in London last year. Two other lots went for $1 million and $1.1 million, while another fetched $975,000. The average lot price was $349,434 and the median was $150,000. Just three lots went for under $50,000 ($10,000 each).

The $18.5million total comfortably beats previous amounts raised by patents at OT auctions, but does not quite eclipse the $23 million generated at the firm’s second IP sale in New York in 2006 when a portfolio of Jimi Hendrix copyrights was acquired. But however you look at it, this is a triumph for Ocean Tomo. They put desirable patent rights in front of an eager set of buyers, sat back and reaped the rewards (they'll get commission from both buyers and sellers and will probably make over $4 million I guess). And, once again, they demonstrated that auctions have a major role to play in the development of a liquid patent marketplace.

The next Ocean Tomo IP auction will be taking place in Amsterdam on 26th June as part of the IP Business Congress 2008. This, of course, is an event that Ocean Tomo is organising jointly with IAM. We are responsible for the CIPO summit element, which takes up the first day and a half and has attracted a stellar list of speakers. The IP Business Congress already has over 300 confirmed delegates, with a maximum of 450 possible. If you want to be there – and why on earth would you want to miss it? – you can register by clicking here.