Joff Wild

IAM reporter Sara-Jayne Adams has just emailed the following about the Ocean Tomo IP auction that took place in Chicago yesterday:

It was standing room only as the Ocean Tomo Fall 2008 auction kicked off in Chicago this afternoon. With over 500 attendees and 118 lots up for sale, it was OT’s largest auction to date. Yet despite these record breaking figures, it seems that the current economic climate is making for cautious bidders. While the total amount raised at the auction exceeded $12.8 million dollars (including the 10% buyer’s premium OT applies to the sale), over half of the lots went unsold, many having received not one bid. The highlight of the auction was lot 19 – a method for managing and mapping deleted files in a flash memory device - which sold for $1.65 million. Another four lots went for $500,000 or more.

That the Chicago auction was unable to compete with the $19 million raised in San Francisco earlier this year will, however, have come as little surprise to Ocean Tomo. Speaking to President and CEO, Jim Malackowski prior to the auction, he anticipated buyers having smaller budgets at their disposal than they had even six months ago, and consequently, he said, OT would be happy if they were to match the $12.6 million raised at their Amsterdam auction in June this year at the end of the IP Business Congress.

While today's figures don’t inspire the same excitement as those generated at Ocean Tomo’s last US auction, neither do they indicate that the market has dried up. It seems that there are still plenty of buyers out there willing to spend sizeable amounts of money on patents. But perhaps with funds becoming tighter, they are now becoming much more focused on buying only those that will add real value to their businesses. 

It's worth noting that OT always raise more money in after-auction sales, so the final figure we get for yesterday is likely to be higher than the amount reported by Sara-Jayne. It's also worth noting that OT's auction this time last year raised around $10.5 million, while the one before that in the US generated just under $11.5 million. So year on year, the total is up by a decent percentage. Maybe we will come to see the San Francisco auction mentioned by Sara-Jayne as an outlier and not one against which other sales should necessarily be measured.