Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Google vs. The Patent Trolls

Yesterday, Google announced a new Patent Purchase Promotion plan on its Public Policy blog. For two weeks in May, Google will open an experimental web portal through which U.S. patent holders can submit proposals to sell their patents to the search giant this summer. (Patent holders will be granted a license to continue practicing their invention, although Google will assume legal ownership and may also license the patent to others.) Details of the Patent Purchase Program are available at http://www.google.com/patents/licensing/.

Google's stated motive for setting up this program (besides adding to its bulky patent portfolio, of course) is "to remove friction from the patent market." In particular, Deputy General Counsel Allen Lo cited the "bad things" that happen when non-practicing entities (NPEs), or "patent trolls," obtain ownership of patents for the sole purpose of filing profitable patent infringement lawsuits against others.

TV host John Oliver recently offered a scathing takedown of patent troll practices on his HBO program Last Week Tonight, declaring: "At least trolls actually do something: they control bridge access for goats and ask people fun riddles." The 11-minute segment is available on YouTube, and provides sobering facts about the profitability of patent troll litigation and settlements, as well as the chilling effect these practices can have on innovation. These concerns were also the subject of a 2013 book available in the Goodson Law Library, Patent Trolls: Predatory Litigation and the Smothering of Innovation (KF3155 .W38 2013).

Congress has attempted to reform patent litigation in the past, and is currently considering a reform bill in the House (H.R. 9) which addresses some of these complaints. A competing Senate bill is expected in the Senate this week, according to recent remarks by Senator Chuck Grassley (story via Law360). News and analysis of these recent reform efforts can be found in Bloomberg BNA's Intellectual Property Resource Center.

For more library resources on the topic of patent law and litigation, check out the Goodson Law Library research guide to Intellectual Property Law. You’ll find titles like the seminal treatise Chisum on Patents (KF3110 .C4 & online in Lexis Advance). For help locating these or other patent titles, be sure to Ask a Librarian.