Mind Over Matter

Selling intellectual property online
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This story appears in the September 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The good news: You've created a nifty new way to solve a problem in your business, and you're sure countless other businesses could benefit from knowing your solution. But here's the problem: You've spent sleepless nights coming up with that idea and are ready for some compensation.

In most cases, the majority of benefits derived from such creations are lost by the creator. In a few cases, though, many millions have been made by inventors-for example, Priceline.com founder Jay Walker, whose idea for a "demand collection" system that matched bargain hunters with surplus inventory gave birth to a multibillion-dollar business (and a large fortune).

That's a rare exception, sure-but numerous Web-based intellectual property exchanges could change that at any time. Have an idea and these exchanges will give you a way to test the waters for buyers without sacrificing control over the idea.

Which Web sites will eventually dominate this market? Certainly, for now, the slickest is The Patent & License Exchange (www.pl-x.com), but before listing there, be sure to check out Intellectual Property Exchange (www.ipei.co.jp/index-e.html) and yet2.com.

Expect this marketplace to be fast-moving. What's true today might not be true when this article is in your hands. Best advice: If intellectual property captures your fancy, check out as many exchanges as possible.

Robert McGarvey writes on business, psychology and management topics for several national publications. To reach him online with your questions or comments, e-mail rjmcgarvey@aol.com.

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