Online shopping patent sells for £2.5 million at London auction

A 10-year-old US patent for one-stop internet shopping has been sold at auction in London for £2.5 million. That one sale represented more than half of the revenue raised at the unconventional London auction.

Auction firm Ocean Tomo was behind the sale. The firm is a pioneer of live intellectual property auctions, having already held such sales in New York and Chicago in the past year. Intellectual property is more commonly the subject of trade sales or private deals, but the auctioning of IP in lots could commoditise IP assets.

The star of the London auction was Lot 19A, 'Methods for internet shopping with a one-stop shopping cart'. Filed in 1997 by a New Zealand mother of three, the patent is for technology which allows a shopper to search for goods in the databases of several shops through one website.

"It is believed that this patented technology is critical for developing and controlling access to the online consumer," said the auction brochure in describing US patent number 5,895,454.

The patent was sold for £2,475,000, more than five times the sum generated by the next most valuable item. It was the highest price ever paid for a patent at a live multi-lot auction.

The patent was used against Shop.com in a case that was settled in 2006 following a Markman ruling. Markman rulings assert that it is for a judge, not a jury, to interpret a patent claim.

The next highest price paid in London was £440,000, for a patent for pieces of technology which are 'wireless communications audiovisual messaging techniques'. The inventor is a Finnish PhD student who founded a wireless software development firm.

His technology is designed to enable text messages to have an audiovisual component.

Ocean Tomo said that it plans to hold US auctions in spring and autumn and European auctions in summer. "We are extremely encouraged by the overwhelming support from the European IP community. Companies and inventors are already submitting IP for our next European auction just days after last week’s event," said Andrew Ramer, president of Ocean Tomo.

The London auction was staged with the help of classic car auction specialists Gooding & Co. "Intellectual property auctions are rapidly developing into a world-recognized marketplace where IP can be sold not only efficiently but at world record prices," said Gooding & Co's David Gooding.