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License to Thrive How you can profit from big companies' tech ideas

By Mark Henricks

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Big companies like IBM and Microsoft spend billions of dollars every year to research and develop new technologies, most of which they will never commercialize. But that doesn't mean you can't. Large corporations are increasingly willing to license their patents, trademarks and other intellectual property to small companies that can profitably bring them to market.

Microsoft Corp.'s IP Ventures division is one of the newest examples of this trend. This unit of the software giant has begun offering licenses for technologies for biometric identity authentication, counterfeit-resistant labels, face detection and tracking, and other intellectual property in its portfolio. "They have a bunch of IP they don't know how to or [don't] intend to commercialize," explains Sam Jadallah, general partner of MDV-Mohr, Davidow Ventures, a Menlo Park, California, VC firm.

IP licensing is new to software, but it's well-established in other technology arenas. IBM, in particular, is a longtime practitioner of IP licensing. It reportedly generates billions of dollars a year in added revenue from licenses for assets, including its 40,000 U.S. patents. Hewlett-Packard, which has 25,000 patents, also has an active IP licensing effort. You can learn more about IP opportunities by checking the licensing websites for Hewlett-Packard, IBMand Microsoft.

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