Auctions have become a popular commercial medium on the Internet. Companies like eBay represent a substantial market for both buyers and sellers of just about anything, from coins to cars. has just announced that it will enter this market. As Mark Grossman wrote in these pages, such sales are not without their risks. is addressing the fraud issue for buyers, at least, by providing a guarantee against fraudulent losses up to $250.

Auctioning patents is a different story. Mistakes or fraud here can mean the loss of millions of dollars and years of work. Many in the intellectual property field long felt that those risks were simply too high to permit the auctioning of patents online.

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