Google Looks To Buy Patents Before Trolls Get Them

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Google will launch a limited-time marketplace inviting patent holders to sell their intellectual property

Google is to launch a limited-time, experimental marketplace for buying patents, in a move it says is intended to curb the sale of intellectual property to entities known as “patent trolls” – which exist solely to exploit the patents they own.

The scheme is the latest effort to remedy the US’ patent system, which some argue works against the economic vitality it is intended to promote by favouring frivolous lawsuits by patent holding companies, as well as lending undue competitive weight to large, established companies – which regulators increasingly consider to include Google itself.

Patent purchase

Legal cost patent law dollars money hutterstockAnnounced late on Monday, Google’s Patent Purchase Promotion is to run from May 8 to May 22, during which time patent holders will be allowed to submit information about their intellectual property to the company, along with the price they think it is worth.

Google said it plans to contact parties whose patents it is interested in buying by June 26 and make payouts by late August.

The company said the “streamlined” process is intended to make selling patents through the promotion more attractive than dealing with patent assertion entities.

“Hopefully this will translate into better experiences for sellers, and remove the complications of working with entities such as patent trolls,” wrote Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents, in a blog post.

Patent arsenal

The promotion is aimed at companies, but Google said individual inventors are also welcome to participate.

“The usual patent marketplace can sometimes be challenging, especially for smaller participants,” Lo wrote.

Google said the legal details are available on its patents website, and encouraged those interested to speak with a lawyer.

While the programme may keep some patents out of the hands of trolls, it is also consistent with a broader effort by Google to build up its own patent reserves, increasing its leverage against competitors such as Apple.

In 2011, for instance, Google acquired Motorola Mobility largely for its patents, later selling the mobile phone manufacturing operation to Lenovo. Apple, for its part, is a lead player in the Rockstar Consortium, which in 2011 acquired patents from defunct Nortel for $4.5 billion (£2.9bn). Rockstar then filed patent lawsuits against Google and others, settling the Google dispute last year.

The European Union’s patent system is considered by some industry observers to provide more checks upon the use of large patent reserves as a competitive tool than that of the US, particularly in the area of software patents, and activists, including smaller software makers and open source developers, have for that reason resisted changes aimed at bringing Europe’s patent environment closer into line with that of the US.

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