LegalForce, a marketplace for patents

LegalForce, an online marketplace where patents can be bought, sold or licensed, has launched.

It is significant because it is a way for investors, entrepreneurs and investors to find ideas in an open, friendly way.

Its search engine lets you find patents, and contact information for all patent attorneys in the US, and some attorneys internationally. Eventually it will let you download all U.S. patents and find profiles of inventors, owners and attorneys associated with particular patents.

Jim Moore, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, writes a glowing piece about the idea.

The site is still early, and buggy. We tried hitting the “bid” button on several listings this morning, and nothing happened (the company says it will be fixed shortly). When it works, you’ll get a detailed form that you fill out, and you’ll get matched with the seller. In some cases, sellers don’t set a price, but request negotiations.

As for competitors, Patent Cafe and Yet2.com have patent listings, but they offer consulting services or feature patents mainly for their clients, and so aren’t an arms-length marketplace like LegalForce. There’s also Ocean Tomo, which is a merchant bank that helps place values on patents to help facilitate buying and selling. The bank has hosted live auctions of patents, and also have a Dean’s List feature on its site — a sort of high-end marketplace for patents, based on Yet2.com’s platform. However, you have to pay for a listing. At LegalForce, listings are free.

Elsewhere, you have Google Patent Search, which is pretty useful — but it doesn’t offer a way to bid, and doesn’t have related attorneys and inventors hyperlinked in a social network. LegalForce, by contrast, builds links for such cross-referencing, in an attempt to be a place where interested players communicate.

The $250,000 seed-funded Palo Alto start-up is in the process of raising a $2 million first round.

Eventually, it plans to charge a transaction fee to cover its costs. It also wants to run advertising.

Below is a partial screenshot of a search result for a “Vehicle Location System” patent at LegalForce (not shown in our image is the extensive information that comes lower on the result page). Here is Google’s search result for the same listing. We couldn’t find it in Patent Cafe’s search or Yet2.com.

legalforcescreen.bmp

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