To Combat Patent Trolls, Google Offers Patents to Startups

Google has started a program to give away up to two non-organic patent families to startups. The offer requires those startups that gain patents to join the LOT Network, a cross-company licensing drive to decrease the number of patent-trolling suits. Canon, Dropbox, Pandora and SAP are among the other members of the LOT Network. This new move comes on the heels of Google’s April launch of a pop-up marketplace for companies to sell patents to Google. Google bought 28 percent of the total offered, some of which are available in this new program.

The offer is only available to the first 50 eligible startups, notes TechCrunch. Requirements include that an eligible company’s 2014 revenue be between $500,000 and $20 million. If the startup meets this requirement, Google will send a list of between three to five patent families and allow the company to choose two.

LOT_Network

According to TechCrunch, Google states it “will retain a broad, nonexclusive license to all divested assets,” and that “non-organic” patents are those purchased from third parties rather than developed in-house.

For startups that end up without any patents, Google will still provide partial access to its own database of patents, presumably only non-organic ones and “may inquire of us regarding the potential purchase of any such assets.”

The patents also come with restrictions: they may only be used defensively, says Google. That means the patents can be used “to protect a company against another patent suit, not to file one against another company.” Ownership reverts back to Google if the new owner tries to sue based on the patent. Startups also have to join the LOT Network for two years before they can buy any patents.

TechCrunch describes the LOT Network as a “patent owners’ club.” With 325,000 patents in the LOT database, members get free licenses to use patents whenever a patent is commercially licensed to a non-member, with the goal of the group gaining capability of warding off patent trolls. For the startups that join the LOT Network, Google will waive annual fees of $1,500 to $20,000 for the first two years.