Someone just shot the monkey. Patent Monkey, a Web-based patent database, is closing up shop and selling its assets to domain-name holding company Internet Real Estate Group (IREG) and Monster Venture Partners (MVP). (Disclosure: Patent Monkey is a CrunchGear affiliate). The Patent Monkey search and index capabilities will serve as the back-end technology for Patents.com, which IRG recently acquired for an undisclosed sum speculated to be over $1 million. Patent Monkey co-founder Paul Ratcliffe will make the transition to Patents.com as CEO, while co-founder Cory Sorice has moved on to Black & Decker as Director of Business Development. Patent Monkey now joins the deadpool.
But it shall rise again as Patents.com, which is slated to launch in the next few weeks, coinciding closely with a series A venture round that Monster says should close within the next 30 days. Patents.com plans to serve both the mainstream market and lawyers, but given Patent Monkey's inability to reach profitability in this space, it remains debatable whether or not the new entity, with more overhead, will have any more luck. On the other hand, Free Patents Online currently sits in the Alexa top 3,000 and does business solely through ads, suggesting that Patents.com has the potential to turn a profit through targeted ad sales alone.
More interesting, however, is Patents.com's potential to broach the more professional realm of Internet IP, a field currently dominated by Delphion . Due in part to its ad-supported initiative, it can forgo the $100 - $250 monthly fee that Delphion charges—a move that could help it to gain traction more quickly. The goal then is to create an international patent licensing network wherein patent owners can claim their patents and provide contact information. Patents.com could then serve as a sort of patents brokerage, providing a communications conduit between patent owners and patent searchers who may wish to license them, which is not insignificant. According to McKinsey Quarterly (PDF file) , the licensing of U.S. patents alone grosses $100 billion annually, indicating that a channel for effectively communicating with patent holders could be monetized handsomely.
Monster Venture Partners founder Rob Monster will serve as chairman for the newly structured entity. Through Monster's involvement, the new Patents.com will be translated into 15 languages using Worldlingo, a company in which Monster sits on the board.
While Patents.com will launch serving only U.S. patents, it has ambitions to soon index documents from the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) and the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO). Stephen Pinkos, a former Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will serve as Patents.com's Executive Vice President. It also probably won't hurt that Monster's Worldlingo currently holds the translation contract for the EPO (a task that it claims to complete with 95% accuracy). Patents.com will be worth watching to see how a domainer firm can do transitioning from a holding company to an operating company.