Google Offers Patents to Startups To Fight Patent Trolls
Startup tech companies face enough challenges without having to worry about being taken to court by patent trolls. That's why Google has launched a new Patent Starter Program aimed at helping young firms defend against potential intellectual property lawsuits.
Offered to the first 50 eligible startups or developers that sign up, the program will provide select companies with two patent families from Google's patent portfolio.
Google said the patents it provides to eligible companies will help for "defensive purposes" against so-called patent trolls, typically entities that don't make any products or services based on the patents they hold but use those patent rights to sue other companies for infringement. Should a program participant be sued by a troll, it could to countersue using the patent assets acquired from Google.
When Trolls Attack
"The world of patents can be very confusing, cumbersome and often distracting for startups," Google noted in the overview of its Patent Starter Program. "All too often these days, the first time a startup has to deal with a patent issue is when a patent troll attacks them."
Having at least a couple of patents in their portfolios also helps startup companies boost their credibility with prospective investors, according to Google. Companies selected by Google to participate in the program will be able to choose two patent families out of three to five assets selected by Google. The search giant will choose those assets based on the applying company's main business focus.
Program participants will also be able to browse Google's portfolio of non-organic patents -- meaning patents that were acquired, rather than developed in-house -- if they wish to purchase additional intellectual property. They will also gain a free, two-year membership in the LOT (License on Transfer) Network, an industry-led initiative to reduce the threat of patent trolls.
'Seems Like a Pretty Good Idea'
Created last year, the LOT Network was established as a royalty-free, cross-license way for companies to defend against patent trolls. Whenever a LOT Network member sells a patent outside of the network, all members receive licenses that allow them to use that intellectual property even after the sale.
"We believe that patents should never be used to stifle innovation." said Brett Alten, intellectual property counsel at Dropbox, a founding member of the LOT Network, when the group was formed. "The LOT Network is a creative solution to fight patent abuse that becomes more effective with each company that joins. The more participants there are, the better off we'll all be." Other founding firms in the LOT Network include Asana, Canon, Google, Newegg and SAP.
Patent litigation in 2015 is fast approaching the record levels seen in 2013 after experiencing a marked decline in 2014, according to RPX, an organization that provides "defensive" licensing, research and acquisition services. Challenges by non-practicing entities, or trolls, against small, new startups in particular have been on the rise.
"We are big fans of the LOT Network program, which we think of as a great long-term way to help fight against patent trolls," Google said in the FAQ for its Patent Starter Program. In addition to bringing more small companies into the LOT Network, its starter program will help them to both grow and contribute to the LOT Network's development, which "seems like a pretty good idea to us," Google added.
Posted: 2015-07-26 @ 9:22am PT
By definition a patent troll has no product. So how can Google's patent donations help a startup defend against a patent troll?
Posted: 2015-07-25 @ 9:32pm PT
We have a Clean Energy Design Process "provisional patent" (the design is the solution to man-made pollution from power plants who are the largest contributors to global warming) but we do not want to proceed with a patent app. as one must describe in detail how our design works and the USPTO publishes the app. where others can see. We need help as the inventor, selling our design or whatever as I'm retired and up in years. Can Google help in some way? We (son-in-law and me) would be glad to show you in detail, if you would be seriously interested in any way.
Posted: 2015-07-24 @ 3:15pm PT
Hogwash. Google wants to add to their bottom line, that is all. This is a token attempt to be able to say in front of a jury that they are the good guys - next time they infringe. Google depends on the average person to know little to nothing about patents and rights - but google knows a lot about that! Don't be fooled.
Posted: 2015-07-24 @ 1:27pm PT
Good thing, but it is a cure for the symptom not the disease -- and it is limited to a few startups. So not without self-interest, Google?
The real cure is proper patent reform. While bringing to market new drugs may justify monopolies of 17 or 21 years, tech patents should expire after 18 or 24 months, maximum.