Google, Verizon ink global patent deal to nix future litigation risks

Google has been outspoken over the last few years in lambasting the growing number of "patent trolls" seeking and filing lawsuits left and right in the technology sector.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Google's dream for a world with freer restrictions on patents continues through a new agreement forged with Verizon Wireless.

Details were minimal when the global patent deal was announced on Tuesday, except to clarify that the long-term, cross-license agreement covers "a broad range of products and technologies."

Kirk Dailey, head of patent transactions at Google, explained in a statement that the deal will permit and encourage "both companies to focus on delivering great products and services to consumers around the world."

Beyond the potential for growing the Android mobile operating system ecosystem even larger than it already is, the biggest objective for the more open relationship is to nix risks for future patent litigation.

Google has been outspoken over the last few years in lambasting the growing number of "patent trolls" seeking and filing lawsuits left and right in the technology sector.

In 2013, the Internet giant published what it dubbed as its "Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge," drafted in the hopes that it would "serve as a model for companies wishing to put some of their patents into the service of open source."

Google unveiled the pledge with a starting base of 10 patents related to MapReduce (the proprietary forerunner to the open source Hadoop framework). Within months, the Mountain View, Calif.-based corporation is expanded the commitment to cover 79 patents related to data center management.

In July 2014, Google -- along with five other Silicon Valley giants -- banded together to launch the LOT (License on Transfer) Network, a consortium aiming to reduce the risk of and litigation itself related to "patent privateering."

At the time, the group cited there were more than 6,000 lawsuits filed in the United States in the last year by "non-practicing entities," which the group further defined as patent trolls.

In response, the LOT Network took a more open source approach with a royalty-free cross-license agreement by pooling patents together.

Companies that join the Network will receive a license to protect them when patents are transferred out of the LOT Network, meaning that the patents' original owners retain rights to enforce whatever they own. But when a patent is put up for sale, members of the LOT Network are still protected by those licenses from whatever "troll to which the patent was sold."

Upon its debut, there were nearly 300,000 patent assets protected under the LOT agreement.

Verizon general counsel Randal Milch noted in Tuesday's announcement that the nation's largest mobile provider also looks "forward to striking similar deals with other high-tech companies also concerned with the innovation tax that patent trolls often collect."

Dailey conveyed similar sentiments on Google's part for future potential arrangements.

Nevertheless, Google still finds itself tied up in a few patent-related cases around the world. Aside from the sleeping but still ongoing Apple-Samsung wars loosely involving Android, Google's years-long battle with Oracle over Java-related patents is currently tangled up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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