Google's has opened a new front in its war on patent trolls: the company is giving away patents to fifty eligible startups.
The Google Patent Starter Program will attempt to help the startups navigate the complex and time-consuming task of managing patents as well as the risk of patent trolls attacking them. Under the scheme, participants will be given two patent families that they have chosen from a selection of three to five that Google has decided is relevant to the startup.
The new program ties in with Google's support of the LOT Network, a tech-industry initiative that was set up last year to protect members from patent troll litigation. The members, which include SAP, Uber, Dropbox, GitHub, Mazda, Redhat, Canon, and others, receive a license to protect them when patents are transferred out of the LOT Network, which currently has 325,000 patents. The cost of membership ranges between $1,500 to $20,000 based on a company's annual revenue.
The idea behind the new patent starter program is to encourage fledgling tech companies to join the LOT Network too, as the Google patent families are only accessible to members. However, membership fees for the startups will be waived for the first two years.
The fifty startups that join the program will also gain visibility into Google's "non-organic" - that is, third party - patent portfolio, which Google says it may be willing to sell at a fair price.
But as Google points out in an FAQ, startups need to have earned revenues of between $500,000 and $20m in 2014 to join, and the company warns would-be participants to lawyer up if they're considering joining, but not to plan on any aggressive action.
"Beyond defensive purposes, we are not looking to have acquired assets used to help folks sue others. Accordingly, the Patent Purchase Agreement on our website... makes clear that if an acquiring party attempts to a sue for patent infringement using an acquired asset for nondefensive purposes, it will owe Google a material penalty (ie, one we hope is sufficient to deter such action in the first place!)" Google notes.
The program follows Google's other patent initiative under the Patent Purchase Promotion, its marketplace where patent holders can alert Google to patents they're willing to sell at the right price. The idea behind that campaign was to scoop up patents before they land in the hands of patent trolls.
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