Google Inc. has recently announced what it calls a “Patent Purchase Promotion”, inviting patent owners to offer to sell their patents to the company. The promotion, the details of which are available here, runs for a limited time from 8 to 22 May 2015, and is, according to Google, an experiment to see if it can help remove some of the friction in the secondary market for patents. This is apparently because the usual marketplace for patents can be challenging, especially for smaller businesses. Google claims that this could prevent patent owners having to work with so-called ‘patent trolls’. However, what is not being said is that the initiative will give Google valuable information about patent pricing, which is usually notoriously difficult to gauge.

Google hopes to be able to simplify the process of selling a patent, and has provided a draft patent purchase agreement where all that needs to be filled in is the details of the patent, the name of the owner and the sale price. On the positive side, Google agrees to license the patent back to the seller to prevent the seller from being sued in the future on the patent. On the negative side, however, if the experiment is a success and lots of applications are made, Google will acquire a lot of commercially confidential information about patent prices that may be of use in future negotiations. Google is, of course, all about information gathering and acquiring such data alone might make the experiment worthwhile even without buying any patent being offered.

If you are interested in making an offer, we would strongly suggest, as Google does, that you speak to your patent attorney first. Important points to note are that the experiment is only open to certain holders of US patents, and only one patent can be submitted per application (although more than one application can be made). If you do qualify, and are willing to make a reasonable offer on a patent that is not essential to you, the experiment might just be a good way to make a return on your investment.