Google and Verizon sign patent deal and call for action on trolls

Verizon and Google on Tuesday announced a global patent cross-licensing agreement that will cover a broad range of technologies. The companies say it will lower the risk of frivolous patent litigation in the future.

“[T]he Johnny-come-lately owner of a single patent can threaten an entire innovative ecosystem,” [company]Verizon[/company] wrote in a blog post describing the deal. The post also states that the arrangement will reduce the number of potential patents available to so-called patent trolls.

The deal mirrors three earlier ones that Google signed with Cisco, Samsung and LG earlier this year. For Google, the goal of such deals is to show that cross-licensing is a better model than “patent privateering,” in which companies farm out patents to shell companies that then threaten to sue a broad range of targets.

Patent abuse has been an ongoing problem in recent years, in part due to the millions of low-quality patents flooding the system, and due to economic asymmetries in the litigation process that favor patent plaintiffs over defendants. The end result is often that companies simply pay to make dubious patent cases go away rather than bear the cost of fighting them.

Verizon’s blog post also noted that cross-licensing can be a protection against the “innovation tax that patent trolls often collect,” but added that such measure are not adequate, and called on Congress to pass patent reform.

While a reform bill called the Innovation Act enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress last spring, it ultimately failed at the hands of Senate Democrats. The new Congress, which will be controlled by Republicans, is expected to relaunch the measure in 2015.