Silence is Carbon

Carbon ... as in a lump of coal. That is, for people, silence may be golden. But for companies publishing the results of their business efforts, silence is a very bad sign.

Take Ocean Tomo's 2009 Spring Auction which it now calls "IP Market 2009". That auction was held almost 5 weeks ago (on March 26-27). Yet on Ocean Tomo's auction results page of today, there is no mention of this auction.

Perhaps you're thinking that 5 weeks is not enough time for Ocean Tomo to process its data from the March auction. Maybe I'm being too hasty calling them out for hiding the results of that auction.

Well, think again. Look at their press release for the Fall 2008 auction (PDF). It was issued on November 3, 2008 -- a mere 4 days after the auction concluded.

No. The reason why Ocean Tomo is hiding the results of their Spring 2009 patent auction is that that auction was an unmitigated disaster for the company. Almost no patents sold at the auction.

One reason I know this is that an industry colleague who attended the auction told me this. But you don't need even that sort of "insider" knowledge. When a company can't wait to tell you its results in the good times, you can pretty well deduce the meaning of silence.

Now, in my last posting --Trouble on the High Seas -- I noted that Ocean Tomo's own data from its past auctions indicated its auction business was in sharp decline, foreshadowing trouble for the upcoming Spring auction.

Hate to say I was right, but ...

What's most baffling to me about the demise of this business is that the problem with it seems so obvious (see my earlier posts). Over the past couple of months, I have tried to contact the Ocean Tomo auction staff to raise these issues with them.

What was most amazing to me is that the most responsive Ocean Tomo employee to the emails I was sending to the company was the CEO himself! People under him, to whom he forwarded my mails, simply didn't respond.

I have never encountered a company in which the CEO graciously and promptly responds to his email, but his staff doesn't.

Call me a cynic, but I don't think this company is long for the patent auction business.