Google chases fast-track patents |
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The Washington Post

A government program that can expedite patents for businesses willing to pay an extra fee is benefiting the world’s largest technology companies, including Google, which has amassed far more expedited patents than any other company since the program began three years ago.

Google has obtained 875 fast-track patents, about 14 percent of the 6,187 expedited patents that have been issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office since the program began in 2011, according to data provided by the agency.

The vast majority — more than 97 percent — of companies, universities, inventors and other parties that have obtained expedited patents have received 10 or fewer of them.

Google declined to comment or confirm how much the company paid to pursue those patents. But under the program’s fee structure, it would cost a large company such as Google $3.5 million to obtain 875 expedited patents.

The patents Google has obtained through the fast-track program touch on areas including smartwatch user-interface features (patent 8467270), printing in the cloud (patent 8189225), and estimating the availability of products by collecting data from retailers (patent 8335722).

Google is one of only two companies that have been issued expedited patents in the triple digits. The other is Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies, with 147 patents. Other technology companies capitalizing on the fast-track system include LG Electronics, with 72 patents; Silicon Valley Bank, which lends to emerging companies, with 66; LinkedIn, with 35; Limelight Networks, with 34; Insera Therapeutics and United Technologies, with 33 each; and Research In Motion, with 32.

The patent office declined to comment.

It is not unusual for tech companies to seek a large number of patents, because the technology changes so fast, said intellectual property lawyer Todd Dickinson, head of the patent office from 1999 to 2001 and now a consultant. And it is not surprising that many of the commercial tech sector’s leading players are the ones seeking the most expedited patents.

“Given the rapid development and heavy competition of smartphones, getting those patents issued as soon as possible, to get protection as soon as possible, sounds like a relatively natural strategy,” Dickinson said. “The large companies, particularly in those industries, have the resources to make that kind of investment.”

The fast-track program, called Track One, was started in 2011 by the America Invents Act. The program can reduce the amount of time it takes to get a patent issued from several years to a matter of months.

The system allows a company to pay a fee on top of the base fee of $1,600, in the hopes of getting a patent approved faster than if it submitted a standard application. The extra fee follows a sliding scale: $4,000 for large companies, $2,000 for smaller companies and $1,000 for individual inventors, known as “micro-entities.”

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