Doug's Mailbag: Google's Patent Strategy
Here are a couple of comments on Google's recent patent acquisitions:
A recent This American Life episode covered this sort of thing thoroughly, and what I learned there would lead me to believe that Google is probably acting defensively.
There are companies that have bought tens of thousands of patents, then offer to charge for a kind of 'insurance' to protect tech companies from patent lawsuits. This is basically the same thing the mafia does to shake down local businesses and 'protect' them from arson, theft, etc. It's all done in the name of 'innovation,' but the net effect is that it is stifling innovation and even causing some smaller companies to go out of business when they're either shaken down or sued for infringement by a company that has done nothing but purchased a bogus patent.
What's needed is serious patent law reform.
Of course patents are necessary. Everyone should be able to benefit financially from their own inventions. That is not to say that the system isn't broken. It certainly is. Patents used to die with the inventor. Not any more!
My guess is that Google didn't actually buy patents from IBM but that Google licensed these patents from IBM. IBM patents are pretty much bullet-proof. (Few companies can defend their patent portfolio more successfully than IBM.) This defense strategy pretty much guarantees that any plaintiff suing Google for patent infringement is also suing IBM on the same grounds -- and who is going to do that?
Further, IBM has such a depth of patents that it probably has one for every one of Google's needs. If Google actually bought these patents, you can be sure that IBM retains its rights to use the patents.
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Posted by Doug Barney on 08/10/2011 at 1:18 PM