On April 27th, 2015 Google announced the launch of
its Patent Purchase Promotion. The
"experiment," as Google calls it, allows patent owners,
or those otherwise authorized to sell a patent, to set a price for
their patent and offer it for sale to Google. The Promotion is
Google's attempt to "remove friction from the patent
market" and "help improve the patent landscape and make
the patent system work better for everyone." By offering to
buy patents direct, Google is attempting to provide an alternative
to the lure of selling one's patent to a non-practicing entity,
more commonly known as a patent troll.
The submission window opened on May 8th and closed on
the 22nd. While Google has not released any information
regarding the number of submissions they have received, sources
indicate that Google has been "inundated" with patents to
review. At the time the Promotion was announced, Google planned to
have fully executed any patent purchases by July
Currently, those who own Canadian patents are not eligible for
the Patent Purchase Promotion as Google is only accepting
submissions from the owners of American patents. Canadians who own
American patents are eligible for the promotion if they meet
certain tax related requirements. Google has indicated that if the
"experiment" is a success they would consider opening up
the Promotion to patents from other countries. Canadian patent
owners can still propose selling their patents to Google using the
Patent Opportunity Submission Portal. This
portal is one of many other methods by which Google is working to
grow its patent portfolio. While the results of Google's
experiment are still unknown, the Patent Purchase Promotion raises
a number of interesting questions regarding the future of the
American patent landscape.
Google has presented the Patent Purchase Promotion as a program
that will improve the patent market for all involved. However, the
program raises some interesting questions because Google will
ultimately retain ownership of all of the patents:
What is to stop Google from using these patents in much the
same way as a non-practicing entity or patent troll?
Will Google's increased patent portfolio create an unfair
advantage in negotiations with competitors?
Will Google be in a position to abuse the power gained by a
patent monopoly that sweeps all areas of technology?
The Patent Purchase Promotion raises questions regarding the
underlying rationale for the patent scheme, namely the promotion of
research and development. With a deep pocketed player like Google
building such a large patent portfolio, how will research and
development be affected? Google's patent portfolio continues to
grow, will the protection it offers them deter smaller companies
from investing in research and development? Is it Google's
place to become the keeper and protector of patents? When does this
"service" to the patent community simply become a way for
Google to control the patent market to their advantage?
It is clear that today Google's intentions are in protecting
companies from unnecessary, and often debilitating, patent
litigation. However, it is unclear what impact this will have on
their goal or whether it may have some unintended consequences.
The Federal Court dismissed a motion by Apotex seeking particulars from Allergan's pleading relating to the prior art, inventive concept, promised utility and sound prediction of utility of the patents at issue.
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