Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2008 (Revised February 2009)

Ocean Tomo: Building a Market for Intellectual Property

by Peter A. Coles, Andrei Hagiu and Alison Berkley Wagonfeld


Ocean Tomo's management team sought to turn the company into the leading intermediary for intellectual property. Despite its increasingly important role in the global marketplace, IP remained a notoriously illiquid asset—difficult to value, harder to trade, and often underutilized by owners. CEO Jim Malackowski and his colleagues hoped to capitalize on this inefficiency by designing and operating innovative marketplaces for intellectual property. After a successful live IP auction in the spring of 2008 (62% of 85 offered lots were sold for a total of $19.6 million), Ocean Tomo had to decide which of its five business lines to emphasize. Indeed, from its inception, Ocean Tomo had been designed as a "one-stop shop" for IP services, with five interrelated lines of business. Which of these services provided the largest market opportunity for Ocean Tomo? How should the company allocate its scarce resources (it had not sought outside funding yet) in order to get the most leverage going forward?

Keywords: Globalized Markets and Industries; Intellectual Property; Resource Allocation; Auctions; Market Design; Service Operations;


Coles, Peter A., Andrei Hagiu, and Alison Berkley Wagonfeld. "Ocean Tomo: Building a Market for Intellectual Property." Harvard Business School Case 709-404, September 2008. (Revised February 2009.)