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IP, IP Asset, Patent

Is A Lawfirm Using ICAP’s Patent Auction To Recover On Unpaid Prosecution Work?

ICAP lists The Stapleton Group as seller of three of the 52 lots currently listed for public auction. Lot numbers AUC050, 051 and 052 all feature patents sharing a common inventor, Lawrence Kates and many were prosecuted by the firm Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear, LLP.  A quick check of USPTO Assignment records reveals that Knobbe Martens filed a UCC-1 lien against a large number of Kates’ patents back in 2009.  Finally, The Stapleton Group’s website explains that it provides “asset management, bankruptcy, receivership, work out and forensic accounting services.” Stapleton may have been hired by Knobbe to “manage” the Kates patents, or may have simply bought the lien outright in hopes of cashing in on sale day.

The Kates’ patents listed in the auction include a patent for a motorized, wirelessly controllable window shade (AUC050, offering US Patent  7,389,806), a touch screen remote control (AUC051, offering US Patent 7,461,343) and an energy conservation portfolio featuring a zoned AC system (AUC052, including US Patent 7,156,316). Claim 1 of the ’316 patent recites:

1. A zone thermostat, comprising:
a controller;
a temperature sensor provided to said controller, said temperature sensor configured to measure a temperature of air in a first zone;
a display;
at least one user input device; and
a communication system provided to said controller; said controller configured to communicate temperature readings to a central system in response to a first query from said central system, said at least one user input device configured to allow a user to specify a zone setpoint temperature and a zone priority, said controller configured to communicate said zone setpoint temperature and said zone priority to said central system in response to a second query from said central system.

In a similar, but more transparent announcement last month, Pluritas announced an event billed as the first of its kind, an asset auction under Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code involving patents owned by the bankrupt SemiQuest, Inc.  3M Innovative Properties Company placed a “stalking horse” bid on the SemiQuest patents (all relating to polishing pads for Chemical Mechanical Planarization) of $1.1 MM.  Because 3M also holds the security interest in the CMP patents, the bid most likely represents the amount of debt owed by SemiQuest.

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