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.

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  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 23 Jul 2015 @ 10:48pm

    What Exactly Is The Point?

    The whole point about patents is that they allow you to prevent others from doing things. Businesses don’t need patents to allow them to do what they do in their business.

    So why give anybody these patents? Why have them at all? The logical, and most beneficial, strategy would be to publicly disclose all the potentially-patentable material, thereby preventing anybody from getting patents on them at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Jul 2015 @ 11:20pm

      Re: What Exactly Is The Point?

      Go read the US constitution again.

      section 8, clause 8

      "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2015 @ 1:59am

      Re: What Exactly Is The Point?

      This would work in a world in which the patent office would investigate prior use.

      Sadly we do not live in that world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Keith, 16 Aug 2015 @ 4:09pm

      Re: What Exactly Is The Point?

      Thats a very good idea. Actually I was patenting a patent system that unpatents patents. Even the :-) is patented.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 24 Jul 2015 @ 2:22am

    There is no point

    As was found out in 1851, patents are an incredibly stupid idea:

    The granting [of] patents ‘inflames cupidity', excites fraud, stimulates men to run after schemes that may enable them to levy a tax on the public, begets disputes and quarrels betwixt inventors, provokes endless lawsuits...The principle of the law from which such consequences flow cannot be just. -- The Economist, July 26, 1851

    Here's the whole text
    http://seegras.discordia.ch/Blog/voices-against-the-patent-system-the-economist-1851/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ponked by a song, 24 Jul 2015 @ 6:25am

    ponky billy ponked

    Hey man
    patents are patently stupid. why stop innovation for the sake of a few breadcrumbs.

    anyway the waves from the turmoil are coming and have already engulfed microshit and will become even bigger with deeper waters flowing to wash away the shit company microshit computer corporation. they are history. idiots. bazaar twits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 24 Jul 2015 @ 6:45am

    Supposing everybody is in the initiative at some point wouldn't it be the exact same as wither having a patent pool anybody can dip in or no patents at all? If the companies are seeking such solutions then the patent system is useless at best and harmful at worst. I'd go with the worst nowadays.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2015 @ 8:51am

    Argumentum ad absurdum

    You can tell the patent system is total crap when the companies who are supposed to profit from it band together to circumvent the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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