Details of the latest iteration of IP3, the patent buying programme hosted by AST designed to give IP owners a quick and efficient way of selling their assets, were announced this morning. This year’s version is open to non-AST members and is focused on some of the hottest tech areas.
On the shopping list are patents in eight different categories including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, automotive, blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT). Sellers with assets in those areas that are interested in participating can submit their patents for consideration between 9th and 20th July, a much shorter window than last year when owners were given two months in which to act.
According to AST CEO Russell Binns, the shorter timeframe shouldn’t make much difference as most sellers tend to wait until the end of the window to submit their assets. Of more importance to sellers, Binns told IAM, is the longer lead-in. This will give them plenty of time to consider what to offer. “We found that as long we get notice about the programme out to sellers early enough it doesn’t really matter how long the submission window is,” he said.
After 20th July, member companies - which include Google, Microsoft and IBM - as well as those businesses that are not part of AST but which choose to take part in IP3 for a small management fee, will be given time to review the submissions and owners will be informed by 2nd October at the latest if there is any interest. Although early October is the final cut-off point, Binns stressed that the aim is to notify sellers as early as possible if their assets don’t make the cut.
As in previous years, sellers will be asked to name their price, with the no negotiation part of IP3 a key element in streamlining the sales process.
This year’s programme, which contains elements of the 2016 and 2017 iterations, represents an attempt to broaden IP3 to bring in a bigger group of participants, a larger pool of assets and ultimately lead to more deals being done. Last year AST members shelled out $2.5 million to buy 70 active assets in 19 portfolios at an average selling price per family of $128,000. That total was down on 2016 when $5.3 million was spent on 107 active patents at an average price per family of $96,000.
By expanding the number of targeted sectors Binns said they hoped that this year’s IP3 would “bring about more collaboration among a broader group of companies”.
He then added: “The list of categories was put together because they’re all hot areas that our members are interested in increasing their patent portfolios in and they’re also areas that cut across a lot of different companies and a lot of different technologies and different industries.”
Opening the process up to non-members should also help generate more interest both in the programme itself and also AST. “One of the reason we’re offering this non-member opening for IP3 is to give companies a taste of AST, because they’ll be utilising our proprietary systems in reviewing the submissions and they’ll really get a flavour of how we operate which we hope will carry over into them wanting to stay on as full members,” Binns remarked.
In 2016, six non-AST members took part along with 22 AST members. Uber was the only non-member to join subsequently (last year the programme was only open to the AST membership).
IP3 was originally launched by Google in 2015 but has been run by AST since 2016 to allow a bigger pool of companies to participate. Not only can they buy assets in a relatively pain-free manner, but the programme also offers participants a good look at the kinds of assets that are coming onto the secondary market; information that can be very helpful to operating companies as those grants on offer are much more likely to end up being asserted.
IP3 remains largely focused on US assets, although Binns predicted that they might see more non-US patents offered for sale this year. With the growing interest in the Chinese market from patent owners in the US and Europe, Binns did not rule out the prospect of one day launching an IP3 China. “If the Chinese market starts heating up with more sellers than certainly I could see a time when we did that,” he commented. “The Chinese market is changing rapidly, although we’re not seeing a ton of Chinese patents being offered for sale yet. However, I think we may get to that point and you could see AST participating in a lot more Chinese transactions.”