Mobile social networking patent sold for US$2.6 million

From our reporter in Chicago.

Just before 3:00pm today the US patent number 6,618,593 was sold for US$2.6 million at the live intellectual property auction organized by Ocean Tomo (see our previous article about the auction here) at the Union League Club of Chicago. This US$2.6 million bid is one of the biggest recorded for intellectual property during a live auction.

The lot number 25 was launched at a US$1 million starting price by the auctioneer and was disputed for several minutes by at least 3 different bidders. It eventually reached its final price when a quiet man seated in the middle of the crowd raised its hand and topped the last bid by US$100,000. After the usual three warnings the hammer of the auctioneer closed this record sale, followed by a burst of applause from the 300 intellectual property professionals gathered on the auction floor.

A hot market

This patent covers a location based match-making technology. The system, working with location-aware devices connected to a remote server, allows users to make connections with other users based upon specified preferences and their distance. For example, a user can setup a profile indicating the types of people he would be interested in meeting. When he comes nearby another user matching this profile, a notification is sent to both.

The field of application of this patent is essentially mobile social networking and mobile dating. Both markets are soon to explode, especially in the US with million of users on the verge to shift from PC to cell phone to manage their digital social life. These mobile applications are the obvious next steps for websites such as MySpace, Facebook or Several start up companies are already launching their services, for example Loopt, which we interviewed recently (see here ).

While the buyer’s name is not disclosed according to the rules of these IP auctions, one can imagine it might be a large online social networking portal wishing to lock the market with a strong patent, or a company specialized in the monetization of intellectual properties willing to license this promising asset to the various players on the market. But for now the only people making profit out of it is the group of inventors who filed this innovative patent seven years ago.

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