A somewhat recent phenomenon in the patent arena is the creation of “patent pools”, where a number of dynamic companies with different agendas throw their patents onto a single licensing platform making their patents available under common terms. In effect, a company’s IP is available to pool members, but barriers to enter the market are effectively erected, causing more prospective competitors to license from the patent pool. Therefore, even when a company’s specific patent is not needed, it reaps the benefit. These pools are the intersection of a growing open-source technology movement and an important standardization movement. This is the future of IP licensing. Instead of competing for new patents which facilitate similar technologies in a single market, companies can fashion somewhat of an oligopoly by creating a patent pool through which the congregation of its patents together create and constitute the standard for the industry. In many tech industries, where competition and R&A expenditures consume small companies, patent pools have proven to be very advantageous.
An interesting development in the rise of patent-pooling is that which is occurring on the university level. It makes perfect sense that universities would be quintessential contributors to, and participants in, large patent pools, as they are some of the largest patent-holding entities in the world. With the resources that universities enjoy, an effective patent pool encompassing a large number of them may prove extremely advantageous for those participants, as well as for consumers. A perfect example of this possibility is the front led by the UNITAID patent pool. UNITAID is a patent pool joining over forty (40) of the world’s top research institutions in an effort to provide patients in low and middle income countries with increased access to more appropriate and affordable medicines. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) has urged more Universities to support to venture. As with all patent pools, UNITAID’s success will depend on the cooperation of its contributors and the foresight of its controllers in establishing standardized licensing plans. Through careful collaboration, the pool may be able to use top-tier patents to control output pricing and the market for certain medicines in low income countries.
In the copyright context, companies and IP owners are finding new ways to bundle copyrights and sell or license them as a package deal. Copyright Exchange, a Nashville company, creates a transparent platform for bundling and selling copyright catalogs for musicians and songwriters. Calling itself a “marketplace for the new intellectual property economy”, the company provides visibility to copyright owners with numerous copyrights to sell, while it also offers the opportunity for investors to search these catalogs in a standardized format. It has facilitated the sale of catalogs owned by musicians such as John Rich and Brian McKnight, while it currently lists catalogs for sale by artists such as Gretchen Wilson and Jamie O’Neal.