A Better Idea Than Endless Intellectual Property Fights

Article excerpt

On May 7, the first round of a three-part fight between Oracle and Google over patent and copyright claims relating to the Java programming language ended in a decision that denied outright victory to either firm. Apple, Samsung and others are fighting over smartphone patents. Facebook and Yahoo are at loggerheads over Internet patents.

Accusations abound that innovation is taking a back seat to litigation. Only the lawyers are smiling.

All of which makes this a good time to launch a new approach to trading intellectual property, says Gerard Pannekoek, the boss of IPXI, a new financial exchange that lets companies buy, sell and hedge patent rights like any other asset.

The idea is to offer a patent or group of patents as "unit licence rights," which can be bought and sold like shares. A ULR grants a one-time right to use a particular technology in a single product: a new type of air-bag sensor in a car, say. If a company wants to use the technology in 100,000 cars, it buys 100,000 ULRs at the market price. ULRs also are expected to be traded on secondary markets.

This is simpler, faster and cheaper than the lawyer-intensive process of negotiating bilateral licences for intellectual property, the high cost of which discriminates against small companies, leaves patents unused on the shelf and hampers innovation. …