Posted on 1/5/2015

Google wants to buy your patents (maybe)

Google seeks to acquire US patents through its Patent Purchase Promotion scheme.

A few days ago, Google announced its Patent Purchase Promotion. As part of the ‘experiment’, the tech giant is inviting patent owners to offer their patents for sale to Google at a fixed price.

From May 8, 2015 through May 22, 2015, we’ll open a streamlined portal for patent holders to tell Google about patents they’re willing to sell at a price they set. As soon as the portal closes, we’ll review all the submissions, and let the submitters know whether we’re interested in buying their patents by June 26, 2015. If we contact you about purchasing your patent, we’ll work through some additional diligence with you and look to close a transaction in short order. We anticipate everyone we transact with getting paid by late August.

Google describes the scheme as a way to reward innovators for their efforts while keeping patents out of the hands of so-called patent trolls. Opinions vary on what exactly constitutes a ‘patent troll’, but in broad terms they are non-practicing entities (i.e. with no interest in using the patented technology itself) who hoard patents primarily in order to demand large royalties from others by threatening patent infringement lawsuits.

Google’s experiment may sound admirable but is unlikely to be entirely altruistic. In fact, many will question whether the corporation is trying to out-compete the alleged patent trolls—and arm itself against its rivals—by effectively turning itself into the biggest, baddest patent troll of all.

Patent owners interested in selling their patents to Google are invited to submit their details via an online form. While the form is very simple, there’s a lot of small print to understand, and Google rightly encourages potential sellers to seek the advice of a patent attorney or IP lawyer.

There doesn’t appear to be any restriction to particular areas of technology, although it seems unlikely that Google would purchase patents in fields wholly unrelated to its business. In fact, there’s no guarantee that it will purchase any patents at all.

Potential sellers, take note: for the time being, Google is only interested in US patents. Eligibility to sell under the scheme is not limited exclusively to US companies, nationals, and residents, but any foreign companies and individuals must be registered in the US for tax purposes in order to be eligible. However, this doesn’t seem to preclude others from selling via an authorised third party who meets the national or tax requirements.

Wilson Gunn