Google Giving Away Some Of Its Patents To Startups To Help Protect Startups From Trolls
from the good-move dept
A year ago, we wrote about the launch of a new program from a bunch of bigger tech companies who were sick of patent trolls: the “License On Transfer” network (LOT). The program, set up by Google, NewEgg, Dropbox, SAP, Asana and Canon was pretty simple in concept. It’s a royalty-free patent cross-licensing program. If any patent held by a member of LOT is transferred to another company, a license is automatically granted to every member of LOT. This serves to avoid patents eventually falling into the hands of trolls and being used against members. A bunch of other companies have joined since it launched, including Redhat, GitHub, Ford, JPMorganChase, Mazda, Khan Academy, Pandora and more. It certainly doesn’t solve all the patent trolling problems, but it is a nice way to make sure that patents from these organizations are less likely to be used for trolling and has a really nice incentive structure in that to protect yourself from patent trolling you basically have to make sure your patents are less likely to be used by trolls as well.
LOT is still trying to expand, and it appears that Google is taking a step to make it even more attractive, especially for startups: the company is going to start giving away some of its patents to startups, for free, if they meet a few conditions — including joining LOT (though the membership fees for the first two years will be waived). The program is only available to the first 50 eligible participants who sign up — and to be eligible, you need to have 2014 revenue between $500k and $20 million. Then Google will offer specific “patent families” from which the startups can choose to take. These patents will not be ones developed by Google itself, but rather ones that it has bought from others. And, of course, the startups agree to issue a license back to Google. And, most importantly, they must agree to only use the patents defensively. If used offensively, the patents go back to Google.
In other words, it’s another win-win setup. Startups can get some decent patents for free that they can use for defensive purposes, and LOT gets more members from the startup community. The only ones who “lose” are the trolls and their lawyers, but I can’t fathom any reason to be upset about that.
Of course, if we just fixed the damn patent system so that low quality patents and patent trolling were stopped, none of this would be needed. So, in some sense, it’s a bit depressing that all of this is really an economic dead weight loss on society created by a broken patent system. But, at the very least, it’s nice to see companies proactively looking for non-regulatory/non-legislative ways to minimize the damage created by a broken system.