Patent litigation is both the bane and the saving grace of innovation these days, so news that Intertrust has teamed up with Google to create a PatentShield program to help save startups from patent trolls is welcome indeed. The program gives all partnering startups access to their patents for defense against patent litigation, and helps startups to plan out new intellectual properties so as to avoid any potential patent issues. The whole thing is bankrolled and managed by Intertrust's investment arm, and Google is on board to contribute patents for the communal portfolio. Despite their vast pockets, Google has not said anything about helping out financially with this venture.
While the primary mission of the whole endeavor is to help protect startup companies from patent trolling that could stifle innovation and drive them out of business, the operation can't exactly run on smiles; startups who want in have to fill out an application, pass some very strict criteria checks, and of course, pay up. The amount they're asked to pay is relatively small, so Google and Intertrust don't really pull a profit. Rather, the fee, called an "equity grant", is to help keep the program up and running, allowing Intertrust to pay their people and continue acquiring patents for the portfolio.
It's definitely worth noting that Intertrust is one of the best equipped companies around for a venture like this. Their patent portfolio is massive, and spans many different industries. Some of those patents were bought up from research startups or even Fortune 500 companies. Joined with the full might of Google's ever-growing patent portfolio, startups who choose to partner up with PatentShield can pursue just about any project worry-free, provided it's not essentially blatant plagiarism. Strangely, companies who choose to partner up are not asked to contribute their own patents or even get their subsidiaries on board. Essentially, this means that a small one-time payment equates to a large portfolio of patents to use for legal purposes forever, and even the privilege to acquire new patents to use in your own development, all while not having to give up any of your own hard work for the good of the community.