Google today announced its new initiative to keep your great ideas out of the hands of patent trolls, organizations whose only business is amassing intellectual property and filing lawsuits.
In the 16 years from 1994 to 2010, the number of patent lawsuits doubled annually. Google’s new program has a simple but effective motive: make it easier to sell your patents to Google than to a patent troll.
“Patent owners sell patents for numerous reasons (such as the need to raise money or changes in a company’s business direction),” wrote Allen Lo, Google’s deputy general counsel for patents. “Unfortunately, the usual patent marketplace can sometimes be challenging, especially for smaller participants who sometimes end up working with patent trolls. Then bad things happen, like lawsuits, lots of wasted effort, and generally bad karma. Rarely does this provide any meaningful benefit to the original patent owner.”
“We view this as an experiment,” Google explained in the program’s FAQ. “We are looking for ways to help improve the patent landscape, and we hope that by removing some of the friction that exists in the secondary market for patents, this program might yield better, more immediate results for patent owners versus partnering with non-practicing entities.”
Unfortunately, Google is basically asking you to trust them, since they offer no guarantee that your patents will be used to open the marketplace to other like-minded tech companies. And while Google has promised in the past that it will only use its patents defensively, meaning that it will only sue if it gets sued first, there really is no guarantee that it won’t change its practices in the future.
While Google’s program, which is really an open beta, is fantastic in theory, they could increase trust significantly by guaranteeing certain aspects of how they will use the patents. At the end of the day, though, I’d rather sell my patents to Google than a bad guy patent troll.