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By Joseph Marks
May 18— Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and a coalition of other companies inside and outside the tech sector are banding together to purchase patents that might be used against them in a licensing request or lawsuit.
The group, dubbed IP3, is asking owners of those patents to offer a non-negotiable asking price, which the group will either take or leave. Other group members include Facebook Inc., IBM Corp., Verizon Inc., Cisco Inc., Ford Co. and Honda Co., according to a news release.
IP3 will accept sale offers from May 25 to June 8 and tell patent holders if their bids are accepted by July 29, according to the release.
The project is modeled on a Patent Purchase Promotion conducted by Google last year, which resulted in several thousand submissions.
Google digitally scanned the submissions, excluding ones that weren’t relevant to the Internet giant’s business or outside an acceptable price range, and bought 28 percent of those remaining, Kurt Brasch, Google's senior patent licensing manager, said. The company paid prices ranging from $3,000 to $250,000 for the patents, he said.
The IP3 project is being managed by Allied Security Trust (AST), a membership organization that purchases patents so they can’t be used against members.
The coalition plans to purchase patents in areas including: enterprise software, communications, networking, semiconductors, automotive, content delivery and cloud computing, AST said.
AST CEO Russell Binns touted the project as an easier and cheaper alternative for patent holders who can take several months to sell their patents on the open market.
“This is an attempt to shorten that, to make it a bit more appealing to sellers and to provide a mechanism for our members to take a lot of patents off the market in a short period of time,” he said.
Like AST, IP3 will resell all the patents it buys on the open market with a provision requiring licenses for all its members.
If the IP3 program is successful, AST may consider replicating it in some way, Binns said, either by launching quarterly or annual purchases with a broad group or by offering purchases in more targeted fields.
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