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A patent on a poker game?

Ocean Tomo will sell off a poker game patent later this month at its intellectual property auction in Chicago.

It's almost time for another patent and intellectual property auction from Ocean Tomo, and the gem in the catalog this time is a patent on a poker game.

Invented by Anthony Cabot, the game, informally called Multiway Poker, involves dealing 25 cards facedown in a 5x5 array. You then make hands out of the rows. In all, there are 12 hands in each deal: five vertical rows, five horizontal rows and two diagonal ones. There are a ton of variations, but the most common is draw poker.

The patent, No. 7,007,953, has an expected value of $75,000. It can be licensed to makers of video-gaming machines, but also to casinos or card rooms, in case they want to add it to their repertoire.

Five by five plus diagonal Multiway Poker

You can try it out here. Don't worry. They aren't charging royalties. It's a bit confusing, but the number of combinations is sort of fun. The auction takes place on October 24 and 25 in Chicago.

Patents are reigning boogeymen in the tech world. Companies and individuals regularly get in a tizzy about people who are getting rich off of allegedly flimsy patents. It is true that patent claims have increased in recent years. But when pushed, it's rare for a company to say its own patents are flimsy. That's the other guy. When companies do open up their patent portfolios for free licensing, the free patents are often not the very valuable ones.

Part of the reason that patent reform has taken so long is that the subject is painted in shades of gray.

Ocean Tomo is trying to create a more fluid market for patents by holding periodic auctions involving a wide range of patents. The auctions typically result in a few million in sales. They even hired Charlie Ross, an auctioneer from Britain who can be seen on a TV show in Britain called Flog It! (on camera?) as well as Antiques Roadshow.

Approximately 76 lots of intellectual property will be auctioned off. Some of the patents to be sold include one that promises to update electronic clocks without human intervention (estimated value $100,000-plus), a patent for cleaning up abandoned shopping carts on Web sites estimated value $2 million) and one for Raman optical amplifiers. Iomega is also going to sell off a patent for formatting low capacity storage devices.

Some of the patent portfolios sell for millions at the auction. Lest you think they are all so-called "patent trolls," the sellers have included the University of California and IBM.

In past auctions, Ocean Tomo has auctioned off stills and video from the classic rock era, including a snippet of Keith Richards getting electrocuted, a Jimi Hendrix song catalog and several patents for flat panels.