[Nothing in this article is or should be construed as the giving of legal advice and/or the practice of the law.]
So you think you have patents that might be valuable if licensed and/or litigated. Don't rush out to celebrate.
Value is contextual; it depends. Value depends on numerous factors, of which these are just a few:
- Do you have clear, unambiguous ownership of the patents? Was it developed on the job or while at a university? Did someone contribute to the patent who was not named an inventor?
- Are the patents likely to stand up in court or are they likely to be held invalid? A patent attorney can be most helpful here.
- Do the patents cover products or services offered by the patent holder, which is to ask, is the patent holder an operating company that's actually using the patents?
- Do the claims (statements that define the inventions) address systems or methods in use by others?
- Did the inventors, owners participate in any standards setting processes?
- Do the claims pertain to a big industry, segment, product group, etc.?
- Can you show using publicly available information that one or more parties infringes one or more claims? It's difficult for lay persons to make this determination with out the help of a qualified patent attorney, preferably one who has depth knowledge of the industry, technology, etc.
Even if you have the right answers to these and related questions, the value may ultimately--some would say only-- be determined in a court of law.
Be aware that many US patents are not valuable at all, especially software patents. In this regard, see the writings of Greg Aharonian, who provides a lively usefully opinionated newsletter on patent validity and a broad range of other patent-related topics.