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How Many patents will Google add to its gaggle?

How Many patents will Google add to its gaggle?

Today (April 28, 2015) Google had 21 utility patents and 5 design patents granted. Since the USPTO publishes granted applications once a week. This suggests that Google will add about 1092 utility patents to its portfolio in 2015 (If this week’s figure is representative).

Of course, Google’s patenting activity did not start in 2015. Since being incorporated Google has become the assignee on 7745 granted patents and 3963 pending published applications (there may be some overlap here). Those numbers probably do not reflect portfolios assigned to Google after grant (e.g. Motorola mobility and Waze).

Nonetheless, Google does not appear to be satisfied with its in-house portfolio supplemented by occasional large scale IP acquisitions.

Google recently announced plans to review offers to sell from any patent owners that are interested with an eye towards purchasing patents. The initiative is called Google Patent Programs. The basic premise of the program is simple: The patent owner files a request to sell a specific patent at a specific price. They agree to give Google a specified amount of time to make a decision. If Google says yes, the deal is made at the price specified initially by the patent owner. If Google says no (or time runs out) the deal is not completed.

The stated purpose is to “remove friction from the patent market”.

One way of interpreting this is “If we buy your patent, you can’t sue us”. That is not necessarily a bad thing for patent owners. In classical licensing/sale scenarios, the patent owner pays a hefty fee for legal representation. Some patent owners may actually get more cash in hand by dealing directly with Google, although Google does advise everyone to “review this process and agreements with an attorney”.

Another way of interpreting this is “When we are done acquiring, our portfolio will be so large we will be able to mount a counter-suit for infringement against virtually anyone” (except a non-practicing entity; NPE). A nicer way to say counter-suit is cross-licensing agreement.

A third way of interpreting this is Google would rather become a huge NPE than let existing NPEs acquire large portfolios. Presumably Google will not be actively practicing all of the technology it acquires rights to. It remains to be seen whether they will engage in licensing activity and what form that activity may take. Google is buying individual patents. By bundling patents in closely related technology areas and licensing the bundles they may create a lot of added value.

Google reportedly has $64.4 billion in cash and short term investments. It will be interesting to see how much of that they will devote to the current program, and how many patents they will get for their money.


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