Frequently inventors consider licensing or sale of their patent application or issued patent as the means for monetizing their intellectual property. One challenging step is to determine who might be interested in licensing or purchasing the patent rights. Determining potential licensees or assignees is a key step in developing the business plan.
1. Search Engines
This is probably no surprise, but the search strategy needs to differ from the typical internet search. The goal is to locate websites of companies that have licensed patents, news releases announcing licensing of patents, industry analyses of patent transfers, and the like. Be prepared to view more than just the first page of results.
- Vary your search terms – You can start with a narrow search based on the features of the patent. For a fishing lure, the first search might be “patent license floating plastic fishing lure bass”. You can then alter the search to include different features and/or broaden the terms of your search to locate different results. Based on the above search, the next searches might be “patent pending clear plastic fishing lure” or “patented top fishing lures”.
- Vary your search sources – Remember that a lot of the discussion of patent licensing and intellectual property sales is not on the general web. The discussion of companies’ licensing and technology transfers may be part of an article in a business journal. Instead of searching just the “web” option of the search engine, search other segments such as “news”, “finance”, or “directories”.
- Vary your search engine – Even though Google is the preferred search engine for general use, other search engines can aid your search for licensees and assignees. There are industry specific search engines, thus you may look for an automotive electronics focused search engine if the patent application is in that industry (if it makes you feel better, you can search Google for the other search engines). Also there are search engines which group or “cluster” results. Thus a search with terms similar to the above fishing lure on a clustering search engine such as Yippy may present results categorized by “Business”, “Suppliers, Manufacturers”, or other relevant groups.
2. Trade shows
Trade shows are where a lot of suppliers and purchasers come together to buy, sell, introduce, and negotiate new technologies. Vendors, purchasers, sponsors, and suppliers listed on the trade show website may also be interested in acquiring rights to other technologies in the trade.
ThomasNet is a comprehensive listing of more than 600,000 manufacturers, distributors, and services providers in more than 67,000 categories ranging from automotive equipment to chemical coatings. Some business in the relevant industries may actively acquire new technology.
4. United States Patent & Trademark Office
The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) website lists owners of patents and patent applications. One can search the patents records or search the patent assignments to look for owners of patent rights in the selected technologies. Owners of patent rights in the fields related to the patent may be interested in acquiring rights in related technologies from third parties.
Of course locating prospective licensees or assignees is only an early step in patent licensing or assignment. The inventor should still further research and qualify the company before proceeding. And the inventor should understand the value of a license or assignment of the invention the other party.