May 10, 2006 12:10 PM PDT

Patent auction pays more in the end

It turns out that last month's big patent auction sponsored by Ocean Tomo wasn't a such a bust after all.

The auction resulted in the sale of 31 patent portfolios for a total of $8.4 million, according to the company. Each of the patent portfolios contained one or more related patents. The different portfolios covered a wide array of inventions: online tools for sizing clothes, programs for distributing TV programs, industrial chemicals, and so on.

Some sellers--a list that included 3Com and other large companies--offered more than one patent portfolio for sale. Buyers remained anonymous.

At the auction, only 26 of the 78 patent portfolios put up for sale were actually sold off to buyers. The total amount garnered on that day came to just more than $3 million, and many of the patent portfolios sold for around $11,000. Bidding on 52 of the lots offered failed to meet the seller's minimum and were withdrawn.

However, the five additional lots of patents sold after the auction fetched $5.4 million.

Ocean Tomo would not reveal which patent portfolios were sold after the auction ended, but likely candidates include a group of patents from Magnasense. Bidding hit $1.4 million on the company's patents for engine valve timing, but failed to hit the seller's minimum. A patent portfolio offered up by the University of California also got into the million dollars-plus range, but bidding failed to hit the seller's minimum.

"51.8 percent of the sellers who participated in the auction have successfully transacted their patents," Andrew Ramer, director of Ocean Tomo Auctions, said in a statement. "The goal of the first auction was to establish that an auction creates a viable market for the sale of patents--a historically illiquid asset. Given our seller success rate, and a transaction success rate of nearly 40 percent, the results speak for themselves."

The company, which specializes in selling and evaluating intellectual property, will hold another auction Oct. 25 and 26. The fall auction will include patents, and also trademarks and domain names.

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