IBM, one of the most prolific patent-holders in the world, is seeking a new patent – on a method for licensing patents.
The patent application currently under consideration by the US Patents Office is titled: "System and method for extracting value from a portfolio of assets", using the example of a patent portfolio.
"By granting floating privileges described herein, a portfolio owner can extend an opportunity for obtaining an interest in selected assets from the portfolio to a client who lacks the resources to accumulate and maintain such a portfolio, in return for an annuity stream to the portfolio owner," the application reads.
"The floating privilege can take many forms, depending on the needs of the client and the nature of the assets in the portfolio.
"The privilege is executed for a set of assets selected by the client and approved by the portfolio owner in accordance with a floating privilege agreement controlling the floating privilege."
Many IT companies are awarded patents for technologies that other companies can then licence for inclusion in their own products. A company like IBM, with its thousands of patents and licencing agreements could benefit from a greatly simplified form of licensing and revenue collection from these patents.
However, there is a certain irony in the company applying for a patent for the methodology as there has been a strong lobby recently – which includes IBM – to limit patents to ideas which contain a specific technology element and not simply an idea or methodology.
It will probably argue that an element of technology will be needed to track assets, and a computer program performing this function is included in the patent application.