File this in the “you have to be kidding me” category if you like, but U.S. Patent Application No. 20130297301, which published November 7, 2013, shows that Google has applied for a patent on a system and method of coupling an electronic skin tattoo together with a mobile communication device. It seems that this particular electronic tattoo incorporated circuitry within the tattoo that enables the picking up of acoustic sounds that emanate from the throat region of the body when said tattoo is applied in close proximity to the throat region. Essentially, Google is trying to patent a throat microphone that is embedded in a tattoo.
What good does a defensive patent portfolio do against a patent troll?
They are a subset of non-practicing entity that does not engage in activities other than acquiring patents and suing thereon. Patent trolls do not make, use, sell, offer for sale or import anything, so claiming or inferring that a defensive patent portfolio provides any benefit against troll litigation is not only absurd, but it is also misleading.
With this patent application it seems to me that Google has officially jumped the shark, and has lost all credibility in the patent debate they seem so desperate to influence in an anti-patent way. Google representatives constantly preach that they don’t need patents, they don’t want patents, the world would be a better place without patents, and that the only reason that they obtain patents is for defensive purposes. That specious argument never rang true, particularly when they would pivot from “we only get patents for defensive purposes” into complaining about the injustice they suffer at the hands of patent trolls, as if to tie the two wholly unrelated matters together.
So can we stop pretending that Google isn’t like every other user of the patent system?
They are not Snow White. They are not the Mother Teresa of patents. Google seeks broad; sometimes nearly ridiculously broad, patent claims must like everyone else. Yet to listen to them they would have you, and Members of Congress and the media, believe that they are the only altruistic actor and impartial voice in the patent debate. They criticize other companies, but their own practices are no different.
An electronic skin tattoo
Now we learn that Google is seeking a patent on an electronic skin tattoo that would be applied to the “throat region of a body,” and which is communicatively coupled to a communications device. Again, I have no problem with Google seeking this or any other patent, but can we stop pretending that Google is somehow different than other technology companies and a true defender of a patent-less world? They pursue patents of all varieties that they think they can obtain, including patents on an electronic skin tattoo capable of being applied to the throat region of the body of a wearer. And how in the world would this patent be defensive? To be defensive they would have to be acquiring it for purposes of leveling a counter claim if they are sued by a manufacturing company that operates in the same space with patents of their own.
It will be interesting to see what happens with this patent as it proceeds through examination. It will be even more interesting to see if this patent gets thrown back in Google’s collective corporate face by innovator companies that Google claims get many silly patents just to pump up their numbers and for no particular business purpose. It is one thing to be anti-patent, but quite another to say one thing and then do another.