Tag Archives: Ars Technica

Does Google’s patent buying experiment put it in competition w/ Intellectual Ventures and RPX?

On Friday May 8 Google will launch a two week experiment in acquiring patents from mainly small businesses and inventors.

Directly, or indirectly, the Patent Purchase Promotion (PPP) will be competing with NPEs and other operating companies for patent ownership.

The announcement raises questions: Is Google taking a page the play book written by IV and RPX (NASAQ: RPXC)? Is it aggregating patents for its own defensive use, the good of all operating businesses, or for potential investors/partners?

Has the company conceded that because it could not beat the patent-buying trolls it needs to kind of “join them,” or at least, compete with them?

It’s difficult to say what Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is trying to accomplish. By its own admission, there is a lot of fine print in its agreement. The company’s LoT (License on Transfer) agreement, originally launched about 18 months ago, has generated mixed results, and PPP may be merely another arrow in Google’s IP quiver.

The company may be relying on inexperienced sellers to mis-price their assets, as did IV early in its buying cycle. No doubt some will ask for far too much. But, as IV learned ten years ago, there is no shortage of desperate sellers who will accept little or nothing in a down market for patents that could be quite valuable. With the market depressed and IV not buying the way it used to, the timing could be good for PPP to step 303170893_idu9a-m-300x199in. If Google can secured patents at a good price before NPEs do, it can improve its and other businesses’ defense against patent assertion.

Ars Technica wrote:

“As a way to combat the pernicious effects of patent trolls, Google announced Monday that it would be buying up patents from any inventor or entrepreneur who wants to sell.”

Google’s Patent Purchase Promotion is a radical change for a company that traditionally has been suspicious of patent buyers and sellers. For FAQs go here. The purchase program ends May 22. Decisions will be made no later than July 22.

Beginning on May 8 a copy of the actual PPP agreement can be found here.

Maturing IP Strategy

Google appears to be growing as an IP holder and user, and it is not surprising that it would want to take advantage of its formidable brand and cash position to strategically acquire patents that may be harmful to it and others at below market prices.

Whether or not Google will use acquired patents for defensive purposes only is unclear. (The company reserves the right to use the patents it acquires however it sees fit.)

Richard Lloyd wrote in a thoughtful piece about Google’s possible motivation in the IAM blog last week:

“The more you think about it,” he said, “the more it raises questions around why a patent owner with a high-quality asset who understands the IP market would consider this option, even under current tough conditions.

“Instead, the likelihood is that if Google does come across something interesting it will be offered by a party that may not fully appreciate what it owns and needs some money quickly; and that probably means a smaller, cash-strapped business with little access to specialist IP knowledge.”

A page torn from IV’s playbook?

This sounds very much like IV’s M.O. back eight or ten years ago: Gobble up decent (if not good) patents for others to pay access to or for the company to enforce, if necessary. It will certainly expand Google’s rapidly growing patent portfolio and provide access to IP rights out of its core search technology.

PPP may be nothing more than getting a leg up on the competition, whether they be opcos or NPEs. We will have to wait and see.

Image source: allthingsd.com; apexbeats.com

For Samsung charity begins at “home,” Marshall, Texas

Samsung has had to defend itself from dozens of patent suits in the Eastern District of Texas, one of the most popular venues for patent plaintiffs. 

At times it may feel to a defendant like a Texas version of the movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ The company so often finds itself in front of a Marshall, TX jury that you could call this part of the U.S. its home away from home. And, as it’s been said, that’s where charity should begin.

In an apparent effort to make itself more hospitable to Marshall’s denizens, Samsung has been donating cash, monitors and recreational facilities to local charities and schools. (See Samsung sponsored ice skating rink pictured below in front of the Marshall’s historic court house.)

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A well-researched and cited story that ran recently in Ars Technica lists of some of Samsung’s charitable activities, which include a field trip to a local semiconductor plant. The story starts out discussing how a Marshall jury has awarded $15.7 million to Rembrandt, a successful NPE that had sued Samsung over having infringed its bluetooth technology.

“The company also makes a habit of granting scholarships to high school students in Marshall and nearby Tyler,” reported Ars Technica, “giving a total of $50,000 last year. Winners receive photograph-worthy giant checks with a Samsung logo on them, and those images are often published in the local newspaper. The same check was on display in the News-Messenger when Samsung made a donation to Habitat for Humanity.

“No Samsung donation seems to be too small for the company’s public relations team to promote. The Samsung Holiday Celebration Show, an $8,000 donation of monitors to Marshall High School, and a field trip to an Austin semiconductor plant all made the News-Messenger. A 2012 op-ed referred to Samsung as ‘the South Korean company that has fortunately become Marshall’s benefactor.'”

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Joe Mullin, veteran legal and technology reporter and “troll” tracker, provides a good analysis of Samsung’s charitable giving history in and around Marshall, TX.  (Unfortunately, the Marshall News-Messenger seems to have deactivated most of the links.)

The discussion of charitable giving comes at the end of the bluetooth litigation story. It does not speculate whether it may have influenced the amount of the damages awarded in the case, which are relatively low for a jury award in a patent case against a company of this size. To be fair, Samsung was on the hook for only $15.7M, and the award could be the result of any number of factors, not just the mood of the jury.

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What’s next for defendants in patent cases? Maybe Apple will erect a dream stadium for high school football in Tyler, TX, another popular patent venue — They could call it Apple Field: If you build it a jury will come give you a break.

 

Image source: arstechnica.com; graciousparadise.org


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