Google Looks to Buy Patents in Experiment to Lessen Lawsuits

Google Inc. is shopping for patents.

The largest Internet search company said it’s taking applications next month from patent owners willing to sell. After reviewing submissions, Google will pick the patents it wants, negotiate a sale and shell out the money by August.

The program is an experiment to see if Google can obtain patents that would otherwise fall in the hands of licensing firms that may use them in litigation against tech companies.

While ownership also would free Google to use the technology itself, there’s no indication that the Mountain View, California-based company is looking to be pitched ideas for new products.

Instead, it is designed to “remove friction from the patent market,” according to the blog posting Monday by Allen Lo, Google’s deputy general counsel for patents.

Patent litigation has become a sore spot for tech companies and retailers who say they are too often targeted by patent owners of relatively trivial ideas looking for big payouts. They are pushing Congress to raise the bar for making such demands.

In many cases, the patents were first obtained by individual inventors who were unable to commercialize their ideas. They sold off their patents to licensing firms that specialize more in litigation than production.

There have been some nascent efforts to help inventors start their own companies. Groups like 1776 in Washington and various angel investors are starting to act as sort of “idea labs” for small businesses.

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