I am pleased to announce that after months of planning, Epik portfolio company, Patents.com, has formed a strategic partnership with publicly-traded UTEK Corporation, a leader in intellectual property licensing. Details of the deal can be found here which includes both an operating partnership and a 6 month Right of First Refusal (ROFR) to acquire Patents.com.
The history of Patents.com is an interesting one. The domain was originally secured by Internet Real Estate Group in a $1.1 million cash purchased that was financed by Domain Capital in 2007. In late 2007, I approached Internet Real Estate Group about developing the domain into a global search engine for patents that would be monetized through peer-to-peer intellectual property licensing transactions.
When pursuing a domain development, I tend to go through an analysis exercise that chooses between (1) build, (2) partner, or (3) acquire — or sometimes a hybrid of one or more strategies. In the case of Patents.com, we acquired PatentMonkey and then partnered with translation technology partner, Worldlingo, to jump-start what is today Patents.com.
During 2008-2009, the company made solid progress in executing an ambitious strategy for building a global patent search engine. Our larger vision for the business called for adding community features, and integrating an intellectual property exchange. In December 2009, Patents.com released its biggest upgrade to date, including extensive community features and improved site usability.
The UTEK deal builds on this operating momentum from the December upgrade. One of the most exciting aspects of the UTEK partnership is the realization of our long-time vision for Patents.com to also enable licensing transactions. As a result of the UTEK partnership, when you search for a keyword, you will be able to see which patents are available for license, and then click through to begin a licensing transaction. Ka-ching.
Patents.com is an excellent example of domain development done right. To build a company of the complexity of Patents.com is a challenge in any economic climate. However, to do this during 2008-09 is nothing short of heroic. Congratulations to Paul Ratcliffe, CEO and Co-Founder of Patents.com. I could not be more pleased with what I see taking shape with Patents.com in 2010.