IP Zone, the IP deals platform originally launched by American Express in 2011, has been spun out of the payments giant. The new positioning is anticipated to help it become a much more active player in the actual execution of deals involving a broad range of IP assets and technology products. The newly independent entity will continue to use the IP Zone name and will be headed by Tracey Thomas, who has left his job as American Express’s Chief IP Strategist.
The IP Zone provides patent owners with a platform in which to engage in the licensing or disposal of their assets. It has also partnered with a third party to fund and develop an accelerator for IP-rich start-ups that are considering which steps to take next with their IP-protected technology, including formulating and executing business strategies.
“The IP Zone was built for very pragmatic reasons — to aid in the licensing and selling of corporate IP,” Thomas explained in an interview with the IAM blog. “I wanted a way to efficiently scale transaction activity.” It is clear that Thomas’s expectation is that as an independent entity IP Zone can become a much more hands-on player in deals, such as making particular recommendations for buyers of assets in a specific sector and raising funds. The initial idea is to allow companies to join for a range of prices for the base platform and then to sell services to them from the platform.
IP Zone will continue to make use of its online Virtual Intellectual Property Exchange (VIPEX) tool which IP owners can use to help manage the deal process. However, Thomas also made clear that he was already preparing for what he called “IP Zone 2.0” which would involve the launch of a new tool called “The Guide” within the first six to 12 months. That would be able to make specific recommendations on, say, which buyers a seller should target for its assets. “The Guide will take information from our VIPEX tool and combine that with external market information and make recommendations to a user on their next steps,” he outlined. "We are not seeking to compete with the other valuable tools and platforms out there, but we want to integrate them and serve as a distribution platform for the best of what's available."
Independence will also enable Thomas and his team to work more closely with the accelerator in helping smaller businesses extract value from their IP. For the former AmEx IP executive, creating further opportunities to work with IP-rich start-ups is a primary focus for the IP Zone and closely tallies with the platform’s goals. “We essentially do three things,” Thomas commented. “We educate users on IP, we facilitate the execution of IP strategies and we can help find funding on a consultancy basis.”