Google, vendors want action against 'patent trolls'

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Google, vendors want action against 'patent trolls'
Sony AR glasses patent.

Costing companies billions.

A joint submission to the United States government by four technology companies slammed so-called patent trolls, blaming them for hampering innovation and reducing competition.

The comments from Google, Blackberry, ISP Earthlink and Linux distribution developer Red Hat were sent to the Federal Trade Commission over the weekend.

The submission supports an earlier report [PDF] by the government agency that found the activities of patent assertion entities (PAEs) cause economic harm and market distortion.

According to the submission, four times as many court cases are filed today by patent trolls than in 2005 and account for almost two-thirds of all patent litigation.

Small and medium sized companies are the hardest hit by patent troll court action, Google and the others said. Last year, patent trolls cost US companies US$80 billion (A$77.1 billion) in direct and indirect costs.

'Patent privateering' was another trend identified in the submission. It involves competing technology companies selling patents to licensing and intellectual property firms, legally enforcing the patents they have bought.

This results in what the four call "asymmetric warfare against competitors". The company selling the patent hides behind the troll, who cannot be countersued as they don't stand to make money from court action.

Google proposed multi-party royalty-free patent licensing to reduce assertions and litigation from trolls, and increase freedom while respecting valid intellectual property claims.

The search engine giant's track record on patents is mixed. While the company recently promised not to sue open source projects using its registered intellectual property, in 2011 it provided Taiwanese mobile device maker HTC with five patents to assert against Apple, a tactic that failed last year when a judge disallowed the move.

In March this year, Google appealed a ruling by a US district court judge that limited the injunctive relief available to the company if Apple were to refuse to pay license fees to it.

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