JUN 10, 2015 19:20 PM
Google has been on the forefront of new technology for decades. Most of the attention the company has generated has come as the result of the products it has developed—Google Search revolutionized the accessibility of the web, Google Maps brought us easier directions and mapping, Google Chrome greatly improved on its contemporaries, and the Android operating system is making waves in basic computing.
But Google is enabling the development of technology in many other ways. It allows its workers to dedicate a portion of their time to personal pet projects, enabling some of the most creative tech geniuses in the world to come up with new ideas. It funds and purchases young tech startups, giving new resources and more stability to promising new ideas. It even partners and integrates with other tech firms, marrying its technology with those of others in an effort to enable the greatest possible user experience.
Now, the search engine giant is looking to launch a new patent-related program that could work wonders in enabling the development of new technologies at a faster and more efficient rate.
As announced by Google earlier this week, the company is launching the “Patent Purchase Promotion,” which it describes as “an experimental marketplace for patents.” Under ordinary circumstances, holders of patents—many of which these days are related to new technological approaches and innovations—are sometimes motivated to sell their assets. Unfortunately, the current patent marketplace is a tangled nightmare of regulations, legal intervention, and generally ill-motivated people.
The Patent Purchase Promotion aims to streamline and simplify the process of buying and selling patents, eliminating some of the unpleasantness for patent sellers. Essentially, Google will open an environment where any motivated patent holders can put their patents up for sale at a fixed price. Google will then review all these patents and prices, and will make offers for any patents that interest it. Google benefits by getting “first dibs” on potentially great new patents, and sellers benefit by having a more convenient means of selling their patents.
When Will It Take Place?
This first round of the program will open on May 8, 2015, at which point patent sellers can begin submitting their materials. The portal will close on May 22, at which point Google will begin the review process to determine which patents are of interest to it. By June 26, 2015, Google will make a final decision and reach out to successful sellers, and by late August, the search engine giant anticipates that all transactions will be complete.
It’s definitely worth mentioning that Google has described this as an experiment, and not all experiments pan out. If Google finds that this venture is not helpful to the patent community, or if it negatively defies expectations, it is possible that this program will only exist in a single iteration. On the other hand, there’s a chance it could develop into an ongoing, regular series.
Who Can Take Advantage of It?
Anyone who is currently the owner of a patent or has the legal right from the patent owner to sell Google the patent may make a submission. Only entities with a United States Tax ID number or foreign entities that can fill out a W-8BEN-E may be paid.
The Fight Against Patent Trolls
Much of Google’s motivation in the project is to fight against the effects of patent trolls, who are individuals or entities that enforce patent rights in order to collect fees but do not act on those patents in any other way. They’re essentially patent squatters that try to collect rent on their patents, and they’ve had a terrible damaging effect on the patent community.
In fact, it’s estimated that patent trolls have cost companies as much as $29 billion per year. Unsurprisingly, a study from Harvard University recently found that firms who lost money to litigation from patent trolls actively decreased their funding for research and development, leading to a net decrease in innovation.
A Three-Pronged Effect on the Tech World
Ultimately, the new patent program, should it continue in the long term and possibly start a new trend in the world of patent buying, will have two main effects on the world of tech development.
The first is an effect of protection. By circumventing the destructive nature of patent trolls, individuals and companies will have more money to reinvest in research and development, and more technology will be capable of development as a result.
The second is an effect of motivation. Because the process of selling patents is cleaner and more efficient, more individuals and companies will be motivated to develop new patents and try to sell them to Google.
The final effect is a boon for Google alone, but could serve to advance the world of technology further than either of the other effects. Google gets a first choice in patent sales, and as a result, it has accessed to thousands, if not millions of new patents to improve or expand its current technological capabilities.
All of these effects will only compound in significance as Google maintains this practice for a longer period of time and as more firms get involved in a productive patent-buying marketplace. While there’s still no guarantee whether this program will last beyond this initial iteration, if it does become a success, it could free up billions of dollars of research and development spending and forge new connections that will enable even faster technological development.
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