Google goes Trolling for Patents

by Matt Klassen on April 30, 2015

It’s been almost two years since President Obama vowed to root out those pesky patent trolls that look to profit off the ingenuity and innovation of others, yet today small independent inventors, technological start-ups, and other such pioneers are still constantly hounded by patent assertion entities, patent hoarders whose greed often stifles and inhibits technological progress and development.

But where the government has failed Google is confident it can succeed, as the tech giant announced earlier this week that it will open an experimental portal to purchase patents from their rights holders from May 8 to May 22, with holders able to set their own sale price. Google’s explanation of the pilot project is simple: Instead of paying money in a seemingly endless fight to fend off intrusive patent trolls, simply sell your patent at an extremely competitive price to a company that will not only protect the IP from such monsters, but actually put the patent to good use.

Of course every time Google launches an altruistic project it doesn’t take much to see the company’s true motives, which in this case have nothing to do with supporting independent innovation and everything to do with the company finding a new way to convince (emphasis on the ‘con’) patent holders to relinquish their rights. Simply put, in finding a way to protect intellectual property from patent trolls Google has ostensibly become a troll itself.

Google has set forth clear terms and conditions for the submission, approval, and payment process for its pilot patent hoarding protection program. First, each submission must include only one patent (only multiple submissions are allowed), the patent must be current (no expired patents), and the holder must submit a price in USD that serves as a competitor offer made with the intention to sell.

Second, for its part Google promises that the submission gives the company no rights over the patent, unless the company chooses to pay the stated price. Patent holders must agree not to shop their patent around during the process until Google either accepts or declines the offer.

Google’s program “has some terms that are favorable to Google, such as requiring an exclusive offer and agreeing that the offer won’t serve as notice for willfulness purposes, but no one is being forced to offer their patents as part of this program,” said Daniel Nazer, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Now there’s no question that patent trolls do, to some extent, stifle innovation, as often these patent assertion entities use strong arm fear tactics to extort money from smaller, less established patent holders. These patent infringement claims are often vague, usually not even stating what patent is being infringed upon, yet threaten legal action that, even in the best case scenario, would cost IP holders considerable money. For many it is simply better to pay the stated sum and attempt to continue on.

But is Google’s pilot patent purchasing program the answer to this problem? No question Google offers a sound defence for any patent, as there’s no way trolls want to take on the huge multinational tech firm, but one has to certainly question Google’s motives.

“I’m all for patent marketplaces, but I don’t think this solves any of the issues Google discusses,” said Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“This isn’t really a marketplace — it’s a portal for Google to attract and grab the patents that are of most value to it,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “This might not be bad if these become available to the entire ecosystem at no cost, but there are no guarantees that that will happen.”

I might concede that Google actually thinks its trying to do some good here, but that doesn’t change the fact that the company is ostensibly turning itself into another sort of patent troll. As T.S. Elliot once said, “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions,” and I can think of no other company that embodies that sentiment better than Google.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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