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Google lobbies against patent privateering

The search giant is asking federal agencies to take a closer look at a practice it says undermines "patent peace."

Google has banded together with BlackBerry, EarthLink, and Red Hat in an effort to expose the deleterious, industrywide consequences of patent privateering, or the practice of companies outsourcing patent enforcement to independent legal-happy entities with no technologies of their own.

The Mountain View, Calif., company, in conjunction with the others, submitted its comments -- more like grave concerns -- on the practice in a note to the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. The companies assert that patent transfers to patent assertion entities (PAEs), aka patent trolls, undermine patent peace, and Google et al are pushing the government organizations to examine privateering more thoroughly.

"We...suggest that the agencies should seriously examine the outsourcing of patent enforcement by operating companies -- companies that develop technology and sell products -- to PAEs, and the competitive implications of such activities," the companies said in the document submitted Friday.

Late last year, a study conducted by a patent law professor found that roughly 62 percent of all patent lawsuits filed between January and December 2012 were brought by PAEs.

"This behavior unfairly raises competitors' costs, ultimately driving up prices for consumers," Matthew Bye, senior competition counsel for Google, wrote in a blog post. "It also undermines incentives for companies to work together towards 'patent peace' through good-faith negotiation and cross-licensing."

Google, BlackBerry, EarthLink, and Red Hat requested that the FTC and DOJ conduct an inquiry to judge the competitive consequences of company patent transfers to PAEs.