Growing you own IP portfolio

It is usual to complain about the price of insurance, for our health, for our homes, for our vacations. Getting insurance in the world of IP is a different matter.

What we know as insurance, a paid for policy to give cash in adverse circumstances isn’t really common in IP, though you can get policies for some, specific situations like litigation, but these are not popular. Insurance for IP usually is do-it-yourself, and comes by acquiring IP that you can use in adverse circumstance, like IP to use defensively when you are attacked. So, the current, old fashioned way of protecting yourself from IP attack is create, buy or acquire IP, particularly patents, to use in self defence. This is what Google is doing, with an incredible $900M price tag.

Google, the Google we all know and love and use every day, has is primarily a software company, and the software industry has traditionally had issues with patenting, particularly patenting software. Patenting software is still a contentious issue, but increasingly technical innovations are getting embodied in software. Add to this companies going for diversity – like Google getting into Android for devices – and you have traditionally patent light companies increasingly finding themselves with the need to get IP self-defence in place. The question is then how do you build that self-defence.

Growing you own IP portfolio, particularly your own patent portfolio takes time and a good supply of inventions. As a measure for the software industry, Microsoft had about 3,000 US patents granted in 2010. So keeping up with the neighbours can be challenging – you need to check out your own local IP landscape to how challenging. You can acquire IP when you acquire companies, and this is a common way to grow a business, augmenting new technology with your own. If you just want IP for defense, particularly patents, then the quick, easy but expensive option is to buy them on the open market and that is exactly what Google is doing. Google is buying 600 patents from bankrupt telecoms company Nortel, for a massive $900M price tag.

Expensive insurance? May be, but better to have some protection, without it you may be heading for a bigger bill. Much bigger than for the luggage we lost on vacation.