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NASA sells patent licenses

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2008
Amanda D. Francoeur,

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has set 25 patent assets on a course for technology commercialization. Eleven of those assets were grouped into one lot and sold at a live intellectual property (IP) auction Oct. 30 at the Chicago Cultural Center. The event was organized by Ocean Tomo Auctions LLC, an IP service provider.

A partnership between Ocean Tomo Federal Services LLC and NASA was established in September to maximize the value of the federal laboratory’s inventions by facilitating the transfer of more than 40 technologies to the private sector for commercial application. Offers to license the technologies are being planned for Ocean Tomo’s IP transaction platforms, including private brokerage, Ocean Tomo’s Patent/Bid-Ask™, Intellectual Property Exchange International™ and live public auctions.

Hilbert-Huang, GPS and sensors

Three of the 104 lots presented at the auction were NASA’s. The first, Lot 56, included 10 patents and a domestic application for examining nonlinear physical signals. The group of patents provides information for the Hilbert-Huang transform – a signal processing technology – to aid in measuring, calibrating and testing physical signals, along with processing and modeling data to be used in acoustical analysis, in simulating geophysical events or in modeling dynamic systems. The opening bid for the lot was $50,000, and it sold for $55,000 with the addition of ongoing royalty fees.

The second, Lot 57, included six patents related to methods and receivers for processing global positioning systems (GPS). The methods offer information for improving the accuracy and efficiency of GPS receivers, while the apparatus provides autonomous and onboard navigation capabilities for geostationary satellites, fast signal acquisition and weak signal tracking. The portfolio is concentrated for those in surveying, navigation, machine guidance, wireless platforms, telecommunications infrastructure and homeland security. Starting bid for the portfolio was $75,000.

Lot 58 offered seven patents and a domestic application for capacitive sensor technologies. The sensors, which can be used singly or within an array, can detect another object’s position and measure its rate of change with high resolution. The portfolio also consists of related technologies, including three-dimensional imaging and improved digital response. Fields such as automotive, heavy machinery, telemetering, and automated docking and controls can use the applications for vehicle-mounted proximity sensors, automated manufacturing controls or 3-D imaging. The opening bid was $50,000.

Lot 58, the methods and application for capacitive sensor technologies, was offered at a live IP auction for a starting bid of $50,000. The patents would provide those in the automotive and heavy machinery industries, as well as in telemetering and automated docking and controls, with proximity sensors, 3-D imaging and automated manufacturing controls.

The event marked the first time a federal laboratory had sold government patent licenses at a public auction. More than 500 people attended the auction, which included those from large corporate companies, small and mid-size businesses, independent inventors, research institutions, government agencies and investors. Bidding increments ranged from $5,000 to $100,000.

Cumulative sales, including buyers’ premiums, amounted to $12,842,500. A percentage of the unsold lots may be sold in postauction transactions.

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