Google seems to find competing in the space of ideas difficult

The new patent reform changes currently under consideration need to be clearly understood by small and medium sized entities.  Even companies the size of Google with all its resources find competing in the space of ideas difficult.  The reason we have patents is to protect the rights of the inventor, big or small.  Google has indicated these rights have value through the recent acquisition of more than 1000 patents from IBM.  They lost out on Nortel's patent portfolio at auction to a consortium of companies including; Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion, Ericsson, Sony, and EMC.  Why did Google want the Nortel and/or IBM patents?  Back in April, 2011, Google indicated in its online blog posted by Kent Walker, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, (Patents & Innovation) that having patents is a good idea, one can protect one's ideas and property and ward off lawsuits.

In the blog post Walker cited what he calls "an explosion in patent litigation" and includes that these suits "often involving low-quality software patents." He says that these patents will "stifle innovation" and goes on to say that "some of these lawsuits have been filed by people or companies that have never actually created anythingothers are motivated by a desire to block competing products or profit from the success of a rival’s new technology. He also feels that "the patent system should reward those who create the most useful innovations for society, not those who stake bogus claims or file dubious lawsuits." Is a patent holder bogus for wanting to exercise their rights? Google has long argued in favor of what Walker described as "real patent reform, which we believe will benefit users and the U.S. economy as a whole."

Google argues that it is a "young company" and that other companies have had more time to develop patent portfolios.  Given this, Walker indicates that "one of a company’s best defenses against this kind of litigation is (ironically) to have a formidable patent portfolio, as this helps maintain your freedom to develop new products and services." Isn't that what innovation is all about?  Growing your portfolio of Intellectual Property and using it?  Walker indicated that Google would use Nortel's patents as well, "If successful, we hope this portfolio will not only create a disincentive for others to sue Google, but also help us, our partners and the open source community—which is integrally involved in projects like Android and Chrome—continue to innovate."

In a recent TechCrunch Interview with Kent Walker Walker is quoted as saying “A patent isn’t innovation. It’s the right to block someone else from innovating,” and the author (MG Seigler) says that "this is something Walker brings up again and again in our talk. Clearly, he thinks that patents, at least the way they’re being enforced right now, are a bit of a joke." Also during the interview Walker states that “We buy companies all the time — for both people and interesting technologies.  This would have been north of $4 billion for none of those things. We were bidding on the right to stop people from innovating.” This appears to be an indication that patents themselves are of little value and that Google should be free and unencumbered by these trivial things so that it may innovate!

So, is Google saying that all patents are to be done away with through reform?  It would appear that they like to use the patents for protecting their ideas, even their purchased ones.  So, why can't any other patent owner do the same?  Large corporations like Google seem to seek refuge in the USPTO while once inside they wish to shut the door on others obtaining and defending their own rights.

What type of reform are Google and others that support the current effort really looking for?  Why, if so many patents are deemed by Google as being "jokes", did they in fact patent their own web page design? (US D599372) What are they trying to limit there?

At issue here is the right of patent holders to exercise those rights, their Intellectual Property rights.  The key word there is Property.  These patent reform (in its current form) supporters point to patents that are not part of a company that is "building something" or has an existing product line.  Legally and economically patents are "something" they're property.  Building ones idea through hard work into an issued, valid patent is doing just as much to "build something" as any product.  Innovations begin with these ideas not products.  If the trend towards the flow of patent protection for only those companies large enough to help sway the system to their advantage continues, as the current patent reform act proposes, then the market for ideas will simply dry up.  Google even announced recently that it will discontinue its Google Labs where many of its innovations came from.  They seek to focus on core products and markets versus enter risky ventures as shown in this quote from CEO Page:

"Overall, we are focused on long-term, absolute profit and growth, as we have always been," Page said. "It's easy to focus on things that we do that are speculative, e.g., driverless cars. But we spend the vast majority of our resources on the core products. We may have a few small speculative projects happening at any given time, but we are very careful stewards of shareholder money. We are not betting the farm on this stuff."

Small entities will be most at risk and innovation, true innovation, would be stifled as the large entities protect the markets they have already built.  The issue of validity already has mechanisms to use through the USPTO and the legal system (Ref KSR vs TELEFLEX) and there is already the ability to reexamine any patent.  Small entities many times only have their patent to fall back on in the end to protect their rights.  Changes to the current patent system should reflect this by providing the needed manpower to process patents correctly and efficiently.  They should not change the game completely cutting out innovators with great ideas.  Maybe Google and the other supporters of the current reforms should innovate themselves out of the issues they face and compete in the arena of ideas with everyone else.
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