Intel is diving into a patent pool in hopes of avoiding future troll attacks.
The chip maker has signed on with RPX, a patent aggregation startup whose members pay steep annual fees to help shield themselves from royalty demands and litigation costs of patent trolls.
Palm and four small software security firms also signed on to the service, bringing RPX's total membership to 35. Launched roughly 15 months ago, the patent pool's ranks include tech giants Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, HP, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Sony, Nokia, HTC, and Samsung.
RPX's approach doesn't guarantee troll protection. The organization uses its money to fight fire with fire - at least theoretically. The company buys up technology patents that could be used against its clients by nonpracticing entities - companies who don't create products, but rather rack up earnings by forcing others into licensing fees or from damages awarded in patent infringement lawsuits.
The firm acquires patents and provides the rights to its clients. Members pay annual fees ranging from $35,000 to $4.9m, depending on the company's size. RPX argues that membership cost is often less than mounting a defense against even a single patent assertion.
RPX claims to have invested over $200m to acquire more than 1,300 patents and patent rights in markets such as mobile, internet search, networking, telecommunications, consumer electronics, and e-commerce.
The startup was founded by a former executive of Intellectual Ventures, a high profile patent-hoarder started in 2000 by executives from Intel and Microsoft.
It's still unclear exactly how realistic RXP's approach is for protecting against litigation. After all, one firm can't buy every patent that could be used against its clients in the future. But the idea does appear to be catching on with the tech industry. Other patent middlemen that have formed around the idea include Allied Security Trust and open-source and Linux patent purchaser, the Open Invention Network. ®