The patent system in the United States is broken. As we wait for reform, patent trolls keep trolling, and companies like Google keep fighting them off. Rather than being a lone wolf in the wild, Google has formed their own consortium to ward off trolls, dubbed the License on Transfer (LOT) network.
In what can only be described as the Patent Justice League, Google has joined forces with other big names like Canon and Dropbox to create their own alliance. With over 300,000 patents in the alliance, the goal is to prevent patent trolls from suing anyone in the alliance should the patents fall into their hands.
It works like this: let’s say you are a member of the Patent Justice League. Google gives you the right to license the patents they hold, and should they sell them — that right remains. That way, should the patent(s) ever fall into the hands of a patent troll, you’re safeguarded because you already have license to use it/them.
Led by Google, this is a timely move that is a welcome stopgap ahead of patent reform. As patent consortiums like Rockstar form, companies like Google will be looking to safeguard themselves ahead of litigation. Though it does nothing for existing suits, it does draw a line in the sand. Google recently made a similar move with Samsung, but one-off efforts like that are slow to come.
Smaller players, like the productivity solution Asana, are also involved, and likely benefit more than Google. A serious suit could potentially turn the lights out on a smaller patent holder like Asana, who only has three patents. In fact, it might protect them from the way Google and other large entities do business. According to Dropbox IP counsel Brett Alten, “it’s an inclusive model that doesn’t strongly favor large or small companies. Large companies are most likely to sell or transfer assets out of the network. Small companies will be basically inoculated from that kind of threat. And large companies benefit because when small companies fail they often sell patents to trolls.”