In the past week or so, several news articles reported that Google has recently purchased about 1,000 IBM patents. While patent purchases are not uncommon (patents can be bought and sold much the same as personal property) the magnitude of this and other recent purchases puts a spotlight on the value and scope of patent protection in modern commerce.
Generally, patents provide the right, for a limited time, to stop others from making, using, selling, or importing a claimed invention. The new patent owner thus acquires the rights in the pre-existing patents, which can be enforced against competitors – possibly resulting in cessation of use by the competition, royalties, or perhaps a beneficial, ongoing license arrangement.
Additional benefits of obtaining patent rights can include newfound freedom to operate in a field specifically covered by the acquired patents. Still other benefits might entail defensive aspects, as in the case of alleged infringement of a competitor’s patents.
These and other benefits of acquiring patents are not necessarily reserved for only the largest corporations. Oftentimes, scaled-down versions of similar transactions can benefit much smaller entities. In any case, new patent owners should take care to properly update the ownership records with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which can have important implications. Moreover, the task of updating the ownership records can become quite tedious and expensive if not addressed early-on.