Google’s and Intertrust’s new PatentShield helps startups fight patent litigation in return for equity


Google and Intertrust today announced the launch of PatentShield, a new program that aims to help defend startups from patent litigation — in return for a stake in those companies.

The basic idea here is to give startups that join the program ownership of a selection of patents from Google’s and Intertrust’s portfolio that they can then use as a deterrent against potential patent litigation from established players in their fields. Google is seeding the program with a selection of its own patents and Intertrust, which itself has built up a patent portfolio around media streaming, IoT, security and other areas, will also give these startups access to some of its own patents and its intellectual property team.

If a startup gets sued, it can then choose patents from the PatentShield portfolio to defend itself by countersuing its opponents.

“The program extends the array of initiatives Google has developed to help reduce frivolous litigation in the technology space,” said Allen Lo, Google’s Deputy General Counsel for patents in today’s announcement. Indeed, Google has long shown at least some interest in helping others defend themselves from patent litigation. With its Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge, for example, the company already pledged that it wouldn’t sue third parties that develop free or open source software that potentially infringed on a selection of its patents. It’s worth noting, though, that this list of patents hasn’t been updated since 2014.

Google, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM and others also teamed up last year to create a new marketplace for buying and selling patents.

The most interesting aspect of this new program, though, is that the companies that are accepted into the program provide a small equity grant to PatentShield. Intertrust tells me that the size of the stake “is a function of the maturity of the company, its products and the litigation risk in their market.”

We have asked Google to clarify its role in this program and if it also plans to take a stake in these companies. We will update this post once we hear more.

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