The Patent Starter Program announced last week by Google may be less about how the company can help protect young companies from patent “trolls” than re-thinking how patents are most effectively used.
A provocative article running on the Fortune blog by Jeff John Roberts, “Google’s new patent plan: how it will and won’t help startups,” suggests that Google is packaging incentives to discourage companies from enforcing patents or selling them to businesses that do.
Roberts believes that the Patent Starter Program could create big long-term ripples in how the tech industry views and deploys patents, and leverages brand recognition. It is an indication of Google’s growing sophistication in the IP space, and shows its willingness to participate in patent transactions (buy and release, similar to Allied Security Trust) if they can help to achieve the tech leader’s business goals.
“The real significance of the Google Patent Starter Program,” writes Roberts,”is instead more subtle, and should be seen against the backdrop of other moves Google is undertaking to change the economic incentives that have made patents such a problem for the tech sector in the first place.”
“Perhaps the search giant is actually tempted to follow the example of older companies like Microsoft and Qualcomm which, as their capacity for product innovation fades, have turned to their patent portfolios as a new revenue stream.”
Google lawyer Kurt Brasch said that was not the case and that the goal of the purchase program was in part to create more realistic expectations about the actual value of patents in the secondary market.
The new starter program obliges the startups who receive Google patents to sign up for the LOT network, “a condition that’s easy to accept,” says Fortune, “since Google will pick up the first two years of the membership tab.”
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