Google, Intertrust launch PatentShield to defend startups from patent litigation

By building up a large defensive patent portfolio, PatentShield aims to "level the playing field" and deter larger companies from suing startups.

Google and Intertrust Technologies Corporation announced Tuesday they've teamed up to launch PatentShield, a program designed to help startups defend themselves against patent litigation.

By building up a large collection of patents that can be used defensively, PatentShield aims to "level the playing field" and deter larger companies from suing startups.

"As startups expand, larger companies -- with sizeable budgets and patent portfolios -- often use patent litigation to create an uneven playing field to threaten them in response," the companies said in a release. "These lawsuits often drain startups of their funds and threaten to put them out of business. While startups can be very innovative, they seldom possess a material patent portfolio of their own, thus making it difficult to defend against such maneuvers."

Both Google and Intertrust have seeded a large number of patents to launch PatentShield portfolio, which will be curated by Intertrust and administered by Intertrust's venture organization. The portfolio already contains patents from all major regions, including the US, Europe, Japan, China, Canada, and the greater Asia-Pacific.

Startups interested in joining can fill out an application here. They must meet certain requirements regarding the development stage of the company and their role in the markets. If accepted, companies have to provide a small equity grant to PatentShield, though they don't have to contribute their company's own patents to the portfolio.

If hit with a patent suit, a member of PatentShield can use the defensive portfolio to countersue. Any settlements or net proceeds gained from a defensive countersuit are kept by the company that filed the suit -- they don't have to be shared with the group. Members also get access to IP strategy guidance from Intertrust.

Google and other tech industry leaders have taken other measures aimed at reducing frivolous patent litigation. For instance, in 2015, Google started a program to give away patents to startups, as part of a broader industry effort to ward off patent trolls.

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