2014-01-14

Co.Labs

Nest Is Just Part Of Google's 2,000-Patent IP Binge

In the shadow of the Nest acquisition, Google has quietly been acquiring a trove of patents, making it No. 11 on the USPTO's patent assignee list.



Look out, world: Google is on an intellectual property binge. According to the IFI Claims Patent Services, Google is climbing to the top of the patent assignees list, sitting at the No. 11 spot with 1,851 grants, just behind LG Electronics. The Financial Times reports that Google's new ranking is the result of the company nearly doubling its patent claims from the previous year of 2012, where it sat at No. 21. (Apple followed Google closely on the patent assignees list, sitting at No. 13 with 1,775 grants, while IBM took the No. 1 spot with 6,809.)

Thanks to all the Google Glass patents it filed last year, the company has a leg up in securing rights to head-based wearable technology as opposed to the saturated smartphone and smartwatch markets. Experts say Google's patent selection patterns emulate those of Apple.

Google's recent acquisition of Nest will add to its patent stockpile as well. Last month, Nest CEO and former Apple hardware mastermind Tony Fadell said that Nest had already settled 100 patents, had 200 on file, and another 200 ready to file. “At Nest, what we did was make sure that we are putting [effort in] a ton of patents,” Fadell said. “This is what you have to do to disrupt major revenue streams.” Google will also inherit Nest's patent agreement with global invention company Intellectual Ventures (IV), which has a colossal patent collection of 40,000 effective patents.

One recent Nest patent, for example, covers something called "event forecasting," which could potentially detect future weather-related events such as when an earthquake might strike. Other features include motion sensing, automating sprinklers, and social-network integration. “A user’s status as reported to their trusted contacts on the social network could be updated to indicate when they are home based on light detection, security-system inactivation, or device usage detectors,” the patent reads.

The patent also says users can share home-related data. "A user may be able to share device-usage statistics with other users. Rules or regulations can relate to efforts to conserve energy, to live safely (e.g., reducing exposure to toxins or carcinogens), to conserve money and/or equipment life, to improve health, etc."

But, perhaps more worrisome features include the ability for government officials to access and notify homeowners of events such as “tornado warnings” through their Nest thermostats. More frivolous patents include Patent 8621366, which would allow Google to be the sole repository for social network-based cartoon embedding.

Google's recent patent frenzy comes after losing various patent wars, including smartphones, costing the company hundreds of millions of dollars in litigation. “Our hope is to avoid a war,” Allen Lo, Google’s chief patent lawyer told the Financial Times. “Hopefully we can learn from the smartphone litigation.”

[Hat tip: Financial Times]

[Image: Flickr user Brendan C]






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