US 20070130038 A1
Systems and methods for improving the liquidity and distribution network for luxury and other illiquid items are provided. These systems and methods preferably include the trading of futures and options contracts, which will provide the liquidity and distribution network for luxury items. Possible embodiments of these systems and methods include the trading of futures and options contracts for diamonds and wine. Another embodiment of this invention preferably includes generating indexes for diamond prices, wine prices, luxury item prices, housing values, mortgage prepayments, privately-held companies or for anything with from sufficiently liquid points of value. Another embodiment of this invention preferably includes a centralized data base for retrieving closing and current auction prices for determining the value of, and best method for the auctioning of various items. The data provided by this data base would improve liquidity by creating greater price transparency.
121. A method comprising:
collecting information about at least one privately held company;
compiling the information to create at least one privately held company index; and updating the at least one privately held company index periodically to reflect changes in the at least one privately held company information.
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129. A system comprising at least one processor and a memory that stores a program that when executed enables the processor to perform a method comprising:
collecting information about at least one privately held company;
compiling the information to create at least one privately held company index;
and updating the at least one privately held company index periodically to reflect changes in the at least one privately held company information.
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This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/340,328 filed on Dec. 13, 2001.
Markets for luxury items such as diamonds and fine wine tend to be illiquid at least in part because of the difficulty in acquiring luxury items and the difficulty of bringing the luxury items to market. The present invention relates to systems and methods for improving the liquidity and distribution network for luxury items.
It would be desirable to provide systems and methods that provide the liquidity and distribution network for luxury items.
It is an object of this invention to provide systems and methods that provide the liquidity and distribution network for luxury items.
In a system and method according to the invention, a user would be able to purchase or sell futures or options contracts for luxury items using a computer-based futures and options exchange system. The system may preferably list a number of futures or options contracts of a particular luxury item based on user-inputted criteria. Based on this information, the user could either select an existing contract or, alternatively, create a new contract around the desired criteria. The user may then view the contract status and execute a trade.
Further systems and methods according to the invention, provide a computer based system for electronically collecting market information to aid in the settlement of futures or options contracts. For a particular item for which a futures or options contract is offered, relevant market data from various sources could be captured, compiled, sorted, and updated by the computer system to generate an index for that particular item. This index could then be used to help settle futures and options contracts.
Alternatively, liquidity and distribution of various illiquid items can be improved through the creation of a centralized data base and system for retrieving closing and current auction prices for determining the value of, and best method for auctioning: goods, services, real assets and securities. The systems and methods according to the invention provide a centralized computer data base(s) for storing relevant data on the auction item or auction object. The centralized data base is connected to various on-line auctions agents. In this way auction data on an item, preferably updated in real-time or at least updated at some pre-determined interval, can be accessible to all who need the information for valuation and determining the best auction method.
Further features of the invention, its nature and various advantages will be apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters refer to like parts throughout, and in which:
This invention relates to creating systems and methods for providing futures and options contracts for luxury items—i.e., items that add to pleasure or comfort but are not absolutely necessary to survival of humans or animals. The following embodiment of the invention relates to diamonds. Nevertheless, this embodiment does not limit the invention to this particular subject matter. Rather, it is provided for illustration of the invention and not to limit it to a particular commodity or market.
Typically, diamonds are classified according to four main characteristics to determine the value of a diamond: clarity, color, cut, and carat weight (one carat 0.007 of an ounce).
Color of a diamond may include blue-white, finest white, fine white, white, commercial white, top silver cape, silver cape, light cape, cape, dark cape, finest light brown, fine light brown, light brown, and dark brown. Commercial color scales may be based on letters of the alphabet with AA being on one end of the spectrum, to D, which covers the previous list from blue-white to silver cape. Most common of color scales is the scale that ranges alphabetically from D to Z which corresponds to a scale of colorless to lightly colored. The value of the diamonds generally decrease as the presence of color increases.
The cut of a diamond also determines the value of the diamond. Certain cuts, such as brilliant, emerald, pear-shaped and marquise, are the most common. Yet, even among these common cuts, the different geometries of each particular stone affect the value of the diamond. Particularly desirable geometries are well-known in the industry. Highly light-reflective geometries are generally regarded as the most valuable because they provide the most luster, fire and brilliance as seen by a viewer.
The value of diamonds also depend on the clarity of the diamond—i.e., the presence, or absence, of carbon inclusions in a diamond. For the purposes of this application, clarity of a diamond is defined as In the most commonly-used scale, the clarity ranges are represented as a range from flawless to VVS1 to VS to SI to I. This represents a range from flawless to very slightly included to slightly included to included. Value varies proportionally with the clarity of the diamond—i.e., the more clear the diamond, the more valuable.
Presently, at least in part because of their scarcity, the market for high quality diamonds is very tightly controlled. One purpose of the systems and methods of the present invention is to provide for greater liquidity in the diamond market.
In system 100, server 104 may be any suitable server, processor, computer, or data processing device, or combination of the same. Server 104 may be used to process and settle executed trades of futures and/or options contracts for luxury items.
Computer network 103 may be any suitable computer network including the Internet, an intranet, a wide-area network (WAN), a local-area network (LAN), a wireless network, a digital subscriber line (DSL) network, a frame relay network, an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) network, a virtual private network (VPN), or any combination of any of the same. Communications links 102 and 105 may be any communications links suitable for communicating data between workstations 101 and server 104, such as network links, dial-up links, wireless links, hard-wired links, etc.
Workstations 101 may be personal computers, laptop computers, mainframe computers, dumb terminals, data displays, Internet browsers, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), two-way pagers, wireless terminals, portable telephones, etc., or any combination of the same. Workstations 101 may be used to enter into and proceed with the trades that relate to the present invention, and display trade, benchmark, or spread information to users of system 100.
Back office clearing center 112 may be any suitable equipment, such as a computer, a laptop computer, a mainframe computer, etc., or any combination of the same, for causing trades to be cleared and/or verifying that trades are cleared. Communications link 110 may be any communications links suitable for communicating data between server 104 and back office clearing center 112, such as network links, dial-up links, wireless links, hard-wired links, etc.
The server, the back office clearing center, and one of the workstations, which are depicted in
Server 104 may include processor 211, display 212, input device 213, and memory 214, which may be interconnected. In a preferred embodiment, memory 214 contains a storage device for storing trade information relating to the trades. The storage device further contains a server program for controlling processor 211. Processor 211 uses the server program to transact the purchase and sale of the futures and/or options contracts. Processor 211 may include futures and/or options calculation processor 215 that may be implemented to determine the benchmark values based on market conditions or other criteria that may relate to the items. Processor 211 may include trade processor 216 that executes and processes trades.
Back office clearing center 112 may include processor 221, display 222, input device 223, and memory 224, which may be interconnected. In a preferred embodiment, memory 224 contains a storage device for storing a clearing program for controlling processor 221. Processor 221 uses the clearing program to clear executed trades. Clearing executed trades may preferably include exchanging currency for a future commitment or a future option.
A standard diamond profile, according to the invention, based on certain pre-determined characteristics, may be used to standardize the diamond such that the diamond may be bought and sold in a futures and/or options contract market. A standard diamond profile for future delivery may include the following: a brilliant one carat weight, having a VS2 clarity, and a G color, the proportions of the depth may be between 60% and 62%, the table may be between 60% and 62%, the girdle may be medium to thick without a culet and the polish and symmetry may be graded as good or higher by the Gemological Institute of America, located in Carlsbad, Calif. (the “GIA”). This particular diamond, or a number of such diamonds, may be deliverable at any pre-determined date in the future, but more particularly at one month, two months, three months, four months etc. into the future. A computer based system preferably similar to, or integrated with server 104 will create the standard profile and then post futures or options contracts based on that profile
Standardization of diamond contracts allows future positions to be liquidated easily—e.g., through an exchange or a clearinghouse—rather than by negotiating with the other party to the contract. Thus, a futures and/or options contract preferably adds much-needed liquidity to a particularly illiquid market. This is because the exchange binds each party to perform the contract. Guaranteed performance of each party preferably eliminates the need for costly credit checks on other traders. Thus transaction costs are substantially reduced by requiring only a good faith deposit to insure good credit of the traders.
Another example of a system and method according to the invention relates to futures and/or options contracts for wine. The scarcity and delicate quality of wine tends to reduce the liquidity of the wine market. According to the invention, however, it is possible to increase the liquidity of the market by standardizing a wine profile to create a benchmark and for trading futures and/or options contracts for the wine based on the standard wine profile.
Wine can also be classified and selected based on its own unique set of criteria: type, geographic region, winery, vintage, and price range.
A specific wine or a group of wines may be selected based upon some or all of these five criteria. The wine type can be very broad such as simply red or white. Type can also refer to the specific designation of the wine—e.g., Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay or Riesling. Designation of a specific geographic region, winery, vintage and price range can also be used to select a particular wine or group or wines. The specificity with which these criteria are designated will determine the breadth of wine selection—i.e., a person with very specific needs may request a 2001 Nappa Valley Chardonnay whereas another person may simply need a red wine that costs around $10.
Once a user has selected his preferred criteria of wine, area then section 660 preferably shows a single wine or group of wines that fit into the selected user criteria. Once a group of wines appears in area 660, the user may preferably click on the wine to transfer to futures and/or options screens as shown in
In the case where there is not an existing futures or options contract based on the selected criteria, the user may create a new futures or options contract. This will allow the trading of any available diamond, wine, or luxury item.
Due to the existing illiquid nature of the markets for luxury items, it may be useful for the methods and systems of the present invention to electronically collect market information to aid in the settlement of luxury item contracts. This information can be organized in the form of a luxury item index—a statistical composite that measures changes in that specific financial market. In order to create a luxury item index, the system may electronically capture—e.g., retrieve and preserve in a lasting form—compile—e.g., arrange or compose from materials gathered from several sources—sort—e.g., classify according to a suitable classification system according to class, kind, size, or other suitable criteria—and update relevant data preferably in real time or other suitable pre-determined interval. The result of these systems and methods would be to provide an index for any type of luxury item, group of luxury items, or in fact, any type of less liquid, but exchanged commodity or item. This index could then be used to help settle options or futures contracts or even in certain circumstances, cash contracts as well.
Examples of this method may include providing an index for diamond prices. This diamond index may be based on available price lists for diamonds—i.e. the Rapaport Sheets—and other similar industry price lists which may be electronically obtainable.
Advantages of systems and methods according to the invention include allowing a diamond merchant or wine merchant to limit the risk on his future purchase or sale of the respective products. Thus, if diamond retailer A wanted to insure his supply of diamonds for the upcoming holiday season, he may contract to purchase X amount of diamonds in December at a specific price. Though retailer A may pay a premium for the right to buy the diamond in December at a particular price, he is protected from supply problems or other vagaries of the marketplace that may occur between the time when he entered into the contract and the settlement date in December. This is one example of risk-sharing advantages obtained by systems and methods according to the invention.
Alternatively, systems and methods according to the invention may provide speculators an opportunity to invest in items and markets that, in the past, were not liquid enough to allow for investment by the general public. Systems and methods for creating indexes for these items or markets can help improve their overall liquidity.
An example of such a market that supports such an index may be housing values. An index may be created for housing values in a particular area—Inputs to such a housing index may be real estate price surveys, mortgage applications, or some other suitable input that may be obtained electronically and used for input into an index processor. In such a system and method according to the invention, the index further may be divided according to regions or may be user-configurable such that the user may create his own index for use according to a user specified region, preferably assuming that the region was sufficiently large to create a usable index. Users could specify a large geographic region—e.g., the Northeast Region of the U.S., or they could specify a particular city—e.g., New York City, or they could specify a particular area within the city—e.g., SOHO or they could specify a particular zip-code or other suitable regional limitation. The system and methods according to the invention would then generate a housing values index for that specified region.
One use for this system and method according to the invention is to enable the trading of futures and options contracts based on this housing values index. The ability to trade futures and options based on this index would allow banks to reduce their exposure to risk from their mortgage portfolios.
Another example of a market that supports such an index may be mortgage prepayments—This information may be obtained from banking institutions.
Another example of a market that supports such an index may be based on privately-held companies Such an index may use the publicly-available EBIDTA (Earnings Before Interest Depreciation and Taxes) as the provider of the data.
One underlying theme of these systems and methods according to the invention is that an index may be created from any sufficiently liquid points of value.
Another aspect of the invention involves
Internet or intranet auctions. In recent years, on-line auction sites have grown as a place for individuals to buy and sell items. Due to the transient nature of the individualized transactions on these sites, it can be difficult to determine the proper valuation or auction method for a particular auction item without painstakingly reviewing the transaction history of many other similar auction items. For example, changes in the number of similar items being auctioned at a given site at a given time may drastically affect the final price or, with respect to used items, small differences in condition may drastically affect the price paid for the auction item. The auction method used, such as the choice of auction type, e.g., standard auction, reserve price auction, private auction, Dutch auction, or auction length or opening bid, may also affect the price paid for the auction item. The particular Internet auction site used might also affect the final price paid for an auction item. By tracking auctions of particular items over a longer period of time and over many different auction sites, buyers and sellers can make better decisions with regard to pricing as well as the best method for conducting the auction.
In this embodiment of the invention, liquidity and distribution of auction items can be improved through systems and methods that track transactions of Internet auction sites. By tracking Internet auctions sites for pending and completed auctions the systems and methods of this invention can provide information which is useful for determining valuation or best auction method for a particular auction item. The tracking of Internet auction sites can be performed by, searching the Internet auction sites, capturing, compiling, extracting a possibly user-specified portion of the data, performing possibly user-specified calculations with this extracted data, and updating the data and the results.
Furthermore, these systems and methods of the invention relate to a data processing methodology and system for a universal, uniform system for tracking auction data by searching, capturing, compiling, extracting, calculating, and updating. These systems and methods could be used for auction items such as: diamonds, wine, motor vehicles, boats, antiques, artwork, real property, and securities or any suitable auctioned items. More precisely, it relates to a computerized system containing a server similar to 104 by which all current systems are converted in a uniform manner to a unique but universal system, by creating and then centralizing, that single system as the single source of the system so that data may be searched, captured, compiled, sorted, extracted, arranged in such a manner to allow calculations to performed on the data, calculated and updated from a variety of sources and accurate, from which up-to-date values may be established preferably in real-time, though it may also be establish at any suitable pre-determined interval. This system may be preferably accessed through a plurality of workstations similar to workstation 101. Through these workstations, a user may access the server to view the tracked auction data and may also configure the searching, capturing, compiling, sorting, extracting, calculating, and updating the data.
Records for Internet auctioned items are currently maintained by various unrelated parties because auctions generally occur at disparate locations on the Internet. Therefore, Internet auctioned items are not conducive to price transparency. Furthermore, there is no current universal system or means for searching and then universally centralizing all records to ensure that all information is up to date, accurate and accessible to various unrelated parties.
Through systems and methods according to the invention, users will be able to view auction statistics and other relevant information calculated from auction data. Preferably, by specifying criteria for a particular item or items and specifying the type of information desired, a user will be presented with relevant statistical data which will be helpful for participating in an Internet auction. The statistical data for each auction in progress and completed auction, may preferably contain information relevant to the successful bids, the unsuccessful bids, the final price, the method of auction, as well as validation of the auction data.
Accordingly, systems and methods for providing liquidity and distribution networks for luxury and other items are provided. It will be understood that the foregoing is merely illustrative of the principles of the invention and that various modifications can be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention, with is limited only by the claims that follow.