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Hendrix song, IBM patents to be auctioned

'Scuse me, while I bid on this song catalog. Hendrix tune, networking protocols go on sale in New York.

The copyright and an original reel-to-reel recording of a never-before-released Jimi Hendrix song will be made available in an intellectual property auction in New York City this fall, along with patents from 3Com, IBM, Cree and others.

"Station Break" was recorded in 1966, early in Hendrix's career. How early? He didn't even spell his name Jimi at the time. The song was co-composed with Jerry Simon. The winning bidder will be able to license the recording and remaster it. The Hendrix family estate is objecting to the sale.

"We are actually selling three lots pertaining to Hendrix: the reel-to-reel recording of 'Station Break'; the master recording rights to 33 songs recorded by Hendrix in conjunction with Curtis Knight; and the rights, title and interest in the entire Jimi Hendrix music catalog as claimed by the estate of Michael Frank Jeffery," wrote Wendy Chou, a representative for Ocean Tomo.

The song will be part of the second broad auction for intellectual property sponsored by Ocean Tomo, which evaluates patents and helps people sell them. Establishing a value for intellectual property, and particularly patents, is notoriously difficult and the firm believes that auctions will help solve that problem. Auctions could also make it easier to buy and sell intellectual property.

Critics allege that auctions give potential litigants an opportunity to buy patents and then sue others. Many in the intellectual property business, however, say the opposite is more common: Big conglomerates use auctions as buying opportunities to take potentially dangerous intellectual property off the market. Small inventors also say patents represent a way to get a return on their inventions; landing a licensing deal with large companies can involve several years of fruitless negotiations, some small inventors have complained.

Patent auctions have taken place for years, but they have nearly always been confined to a few patents from a single company. Ocean Tomo held the first widespread patent auction with patents covering a variety of inventions and from a wide variety of companies in April in San Francisco. They even hired an English auctioneer to bark out the bidding. Although few patents sold the day of the auction, buyers and sellers subsequently got together and cut deals. In all 31 patent lots sold for $8.4 million. A patent submitted by inventor Douglas J. Ballantyne at the April auction fetched $1.4 million, the highest amount received.

In these sort of auctions, anonymity is the rule and no one wears name tags. At the April auction, several sources claimed that Intellectual Ventures, the patent firm backed by Microsoft, Google and Intel, among others, bought a number of patents. Intellectual Ventures said it didn't participate.

The New York auction will feature patents, but also copyrights, domain names and trademarks. In all, around 275 items of intellectual property will be auctioned off. The firm looked at more than 3,500 submissions. It takes place Oct. 26. Antipatent activists take note: It costs $1,500 to attend.