Last year, Google and a handful of other technology companies banded together to fight patent trolls -- creating the License on Transfer Network (LOT). It's a pretty good system, effectively protecting LOT members from patent litigation by giving all participants a royalty-free license to any patent that leaves the LOT network. Now, Google wants to expand the network's ranks to include start-ups, and it's offering new members a pretty nice welcome package: free patents.
Here's the deal: The first 50 eligible startups to enroll in Google's Patent Starter Program will be given access to the company's non-organic (not originating from Google itself) patent portal, two years of membership in the LOT program (with membership fees waived) and two patents of their very own. There is a catch, though: the free intellectual property is a little random. Google will create a tailored list of 3-5 patents based on the startup's business focus and allow them to choose two from that list. This means a company could wind up with a patent they don't necessarily want -- but a free patent is a free patent.
Even so, the free patents have a few extra rules: if participating companies leave the program before two years pass, ownership of the gifted patents revert back to Google. The patents can't be used to sue other companies either -- after all, this program is designed to help stop patent trolls, not encourage them. Check out Google's official patent page for more details.