Google is running what it calls a ‘patent purchase promotion.’ From May 8 through May 22, 2015, you can offer to sell your issued U.S. patent to Google. You must provide the patent number, contact information and a take-it-or-leave-it price along with the submission contract. Google will let you know if it is interested by June 26. You agree not to sell your patent to anyone else prior to that date. If Google is interested, then it will perform additional due diligence and you agree not to sell your patent to others through July 15. If Google is satisfied by its due diligence and wants to buy the patent, then it will complete the deal by mid-July and complete payment by mid-August. That’s quick.
Google is only interested in buying issued U.S. utility patents. It is not interested in pending applications, expired patents, foreign patents or design patents. It is only interested in outright sale and not in licensing of patents. Although the Google solicitation does not limit submissions to any particular field of technology, we expect that inventions related to its businesses are of the most interest to Google.Google’s stated purpose is to conduct an experiment as to whether it can “take some of the friction out of the secondary market for patents;” that is, whether Google can make it easier for buyers and sellers of patents to find each other and to complete patent transactions. The subtext is that if patent owners can more easily sell their patents, then perhaps they will not sell or license them to ‘non-practicing entities’ that exist only to enforce patents.The Google reviewers are certain to receive offers to sell many worthless patents for inventions that no one needs or wants. They also are certain to receive offers to sell valuable, innovative inventions. This author, for one, is uncertain how Google’s experiment will remove friction in general from the secondary market for patents. The experiment certainly will give Google the opportunity to screen a large number of patents and, potentially, to expand its patent portfolio very quickly.Some companies (i.e, IBM) internally develop a large number of inventions and patents for a wide range of technologies. The resulting ‘patent thicket’ insulates the company from claims of patent infringement by others because regardless of what you are doing, it’s likely that you infringe an IBM patent. Google may be building its own ‘patent thicket,’ but may create its thicket in a few months rather than over decades. Regardless of Google’s motives, anything that makes it easier for an inventor to sell a patent makes the work of inventors more valuable and is a good thing.Robert Yarbrough, Esq.