Google is offering to buy patents from inventors in a race against patent trolls. The California giant wants to snatch the blueprints before they can be used in infringement lawsuits against it.
The Mountain View web goliath is giving patent-holders two weeks to come forward and show off their wares: the Patent Purchase Promotion will run from May 8 to 22, during which time patent owners can pitch Google.
After that deadline, the ad slinger will take about a month to review the submissions, and will notify patent holders by June 26 of their interest to buy the rights to their technology. Sellers can only offer one patent per application, but there is no limit on the number of applications patent holders can submit.
The program – described by Google as an "experiment to remove friction from the patent market" – aims to wrap up by July 15 with payments going out within 30 days.
The Chocolate Factory is being direct about the reasoning behind the shopping spree: it wants to snap up patents to keep them out of the hands of trolls that just love extracting cash from companies like Google with patent-infringement lawsuits. Trolls, aka non-practicing entities, exist purely to sue others for allegedly infringing patents.
What will happen when the patents land in the hands of Google? "Google maintains a large patent portfolio. Any patents purchased by Google through this program will join our portfolio and can be used by Google in all the normal ways that patents can be used (e.g., we can license them to others, etc.)" the company notes in its FAQ [PDF] on the patent-purchasing program.
But what's to stop Google itself turning into a troll, and blitzing rivals with its brimming legal arsenal? Yes, it does lots of nice things for the internet, Android 5 looks very shiny, and it promises not to sue open-source projects, but it's also facing serious charges of abuse of dominance in Europe; it regularly changes its mind about what it wants to do; it spins up things like Google+ in direct competition with other sites with no real plan; and it's waist deep in a row over an FBI probe into drug-peddling AdWords that cost Google $500m in an out-of-court settlement.
Ah, don't mind us: sell Google your patents. What's the worst that can happen?
"Patent owners sell patents for numerous reasons (such as the need to raise money or changes in a company’s business direction). Unfortunately, the usual patent marketplace can sometimes be challenging, especially for smaller participants who sometimes end up working with patent trolls," wrote Google deputy general counsel Allen Lo in a blog post today.
"Then bad things happen, like lawsuits, lots of wasted effort, and generally bad karma."
Google has been a favorite target for patent trolls, and search goliath has stepped up its efforts to limit the ability of patent trolls to sue it and other corporate giants in hopes of making a quick buck. ®