Commentary

Google Looks For IP, Launches Secondary Patent Marketplace

Google has opened its purse strings to create a secondary marketplace for U.S. only patents. The cash-rich company has set up an experimental marketplace for patent owners to sell their intellectual property. Yes, to Google.

The Patent Purchase Promotion aims to streamline the process, from May 8, 2015 through May 22, 2015, allowing Google to take a look at the IP from any registered owner willing to sell. When the portal closes, Google will review the submissions, negotiate the sale, and let submitters know by June 26 whether they will buy the patent. They will get paid by late August.

If you're wondering how much Google plans to spend to acquire patents, not even Google knows the answer, per the Frequently Asked Questions. It will depend on how much interest the company receives and the type of patents submitted.

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Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents at Google, advises those submitting patents to read the fine print. "Make sure you fully understand before participating, and we encourage participants to speak with an attorney," he writes in a post. 

Some report the program is an experiment to see whether Google can obtain patents that might otherwise fall into the hands of licensing firms that may use them in litigation against tech companies. And while there's probably some truth in that story, it's more likely that Google will look for IP to build out its licensing and services, as well as augment its revenue stream. It also could see the patent as a seed to build a new company, an industry to water and nurture.

Even Google admits it maintains a large patent portfolio. "Any patents purchased by Google through this program will join our portfolio and can be used by Google in all the normal ways that patents can be used (e.g., we can license them to others, etc.)," per the FAQs.

As part of the patent agreement, sellers will retain a license back to their patent. The license is "irrevocable, non­exclusive, non­transferable, non­assignable (including by operation of law or otherwise), non­sublicensable, worldwide, [and] fully paid­up."

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