Richard Lloyd

The Industry Patent Purchase Program (IP3), the initiative launched in May by AST and a group of major operating companies which was designed to give patent owners a quick and simple way to sell their patents, has bought 78 US patent applications and grants according to data from the USPTO’s assignment database. There is no indication if that is the final total of patents sold, although with payment due to the successful sellers by the end of this month, the picture should become much clearer in the next few weeks.

The sellers feature a range of individual inventors and companies that are not exactly household names. But one name that does stand out is Intellectual Discovery, the Korean sovereign patent fund which, as this blog has recently reported, has been exploring the option of severing its ties with the Korean government and going private.

According to the PTO database, ID has sold four patents - including one package of three grants that were originally assigned to IBM, which is one of IP3’s members. All of the patents that IP3 buys will be licensed back to the company members before AST, which has been running the programme, will attempt to sell them on the open market. That leaves open the rather intriguing possibility that IBM contributed cash towards the acquisition of assets that it created in the first place.

What is not clear yet is how many sellers originally approached IP3 to sell patents. One of the clear advantages of the scheme was that it promised successful sellers that deals would be closed in a matter of months from start to finish rather than dragging on for more than a year as often happens in patent transactions. Those looking to sell their assets were asked to submit their filings between 25th May and 10th June. They were then analysed by AST and all submitters were notified by the end of July if IP3 was interested in moving to a purchase.

While we wait for the final numbers, it’s a clear sign of support for IP3 that a sophisticated patent player like ID would choose to dispose of assets through the programme. That would seem to offer some encouragement to AST and the group of companies, particularly when they consider whether to run a scheme like this again. Speaking to the IAM blog back in May when the platform was launched, AST CEO Russell Binns highlighted possible options for a successor to IP3: “One initial thought has been that we might do it in particular zones and do more focused programmes in a particular technology.” 

IP3 was set up as the successor to the Patent Purchase Promotion, a similar scheme run last summer by Google, which saw the search giant receive submissions covering several thousand patents from interested sellers. Google was reported to have paid between $3,000 and $250,000 but other than that details are rather scant. According to one report, the tech company bought 28% of the patents that it “deemed relevant to its business” but that story did not disclose how many it deemed relevant.

While Google only bought individual patents, IP3 was willing to buy families meaning that it might have paid more for the most expensive assets. Regardless of how many patents have actually been sold, one of the benefits of IP3 is that gives AST and the member companies a close look at what is available. It is, after all, a patent buyer’s market.