Google is making it easy for inventors to sell their ideas to the search engine giant.
The company launched a new portal today that lets people or companies that hold U.S. patents – including some outside the U.S. — to offer their patents to Google during a two-week experiment in May.
Google says it aims to remove "some of the friction that exists in the secondary market for patents." The market has gained a bad reputation from "patent trolls" – companies that buy up patents, then threaten companies that sell similar technology by seeking licensing fees and threatening legal action.
According to the U.S. government, the result is that major companies are spending more on patent litigation and defensive acquisition than on research and development, hurting the economy.
"Unfortunately, the usual patent marketplace can sometimes be challenging, especially for smaller participants who sometimes end up working with patent trolls," wrote Allen Lo, deputy general counsel for patents in a post on Google's Public Policy blog Monday.
From May 8 to 22, patent holders can use the its Patent Purchase Promotion portal to tell Google about their patents and the price they're willing to sell those patents for.
The company says it will let people know if it's interested in buying the patents by June 26 and pay them by late August.
Google says it doesn't yet know how much it's going to spend .
"It will really be a function of how much interest we receive and the type of patents that are submitted," the company said on an FAQ page.
For now, Google says it can only pay individuals, U.S.-based companies, and foreign companies that can fill out a special form called a W8BENE, which includes "many, but not all foreign entities."
Google may buy foreign patents in future
It is only buying U.S. patents during this experiment, but Google says it will see what level of interest it gets and may buy foreign patents in the future.
While Google says it is trying to tackle patent trolls head on, observers says it has other good reasons for launching the experiment.
"Gaining a big batch of new patents could be very helpful to Google in the future, when more litigation rolls around," wrote Mic Wright on The Next Web technology website.
Sarah Perez of TechCrunch writes, "The program seems like a good way for Google to find out what patents are on the market today, including which ones it may need to worry about. And it's able to do so without transactional costs associated with doing so because it will likely get flooded with submissions."
She added that Google is likely to get some good deals, as sellers will have a difficult time shopping around for competitive bids, given the time frame for the experiment.