It’s set up to simplify the complicated process of buying and selling patents. According to Uber, the transaction process takes around four months. For patent holders, the sales process offers an opportunity to sell their patent faster.
The on-line platform lets patent holders submit a price they are willing to accept. Eliminating the price negotiation makes their buying decision a faster process. Although the program doesn’t give the patent owner any leverage in price negotiation, Uber is betting that enough patent sellers are more interested in a quick sale then getting the highest price.
Why is Uber doing this? One of the big reasons is Uber is far behind its competition when it comes to patented technology. Uber’s patent portfolio is small (about 144) and they’re facing stiff competition from Google (with over 70,000 patents) and others, especially in the autonomous vehicle space. Its a strategy to build their portfolio of patents, acquire new technologies faster, and help protect against infringement litigation, especially from patent assertion firms (patent trolls).
You can submit your patent for consideration between April 24 and May 23, 2017. You can also submit portfolios of up to five (5) patent families in one submission, which makes it easier to group complementary patent families to get the best price. After the submission period closes, Uber will review all the patent submissions and contact patent owners with technology they are interested in buying.
To qualify, your patent must be issued in the US, with time remaining on the patent term. If you submit a patent family, it must include all patents issued (US and international), as well as pending, expired and abandoned applications. A complete chain of title is required, verifying that you own the patent(s), the maintenance fees are paid, it doesn’t have any invalid or unenforceable claims, and there are no security liens or interests on the patent.
Uber doesn’t state what types of technologies they are interested in buying. How many patents they buy and the prices they’ll pay will depend on the patent quality and whether the technology fits their business objectives (something related to autonomous vehicles is a pretty good bet). Google, whose program was only open 3 weeks, reported receiving thousands of submissions and buying about 28% of them. Prices they paid ranged from $3,000 to $250,000, with the median price at $150,000. The highest patent price offered was $3.5 billion.
Since this is a fixed price offer, before submitting your patent, do some research to get an idea of the value of similar patents. That will help guide you in figuring out a reasonable asking price.
The Uber and Google programs are both indicators of where the transaction market for patents could be headed. More large companies may start offering similar patent buying programs as a strategy to acquire valuable technologies faster and reduce their potential patent litigation exposure.
You can get more details about the Uber patent buying program at this link.
Rand Brenner is an IP professional whose passion is helping inventors, startups, and businesses of all sizes use licensing to turn their IP into income-producing products, services, and technologies. His decades of experience run the gamut from medical devices to food technology to consumer products. He’s licensed some of the biggest Hollywood entertainment blockbusters including the Batman Movies (1 and 2), and the number one kid’s action TV show, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Rand speaks about licensing and is a featured speaker at investment conferences, trade shows, colleges, and startup events. His first book, Hidden Wealth: The Money Making Power of Licensing was released in 2019 and is available on Amazon.com. He’s also a published writer with articles appearing in several prestigious trade magazine including The Licensing Journal, Intellectual Property Magazine, and License India. Rand also mentors at the Cal State Fullerton School of Business and Economics and is a judge for their startup business plan competitions.