By: Seth Bruneel,
About ten years ago someone had an idea. It is doubtful that patent protection is available for the idea, but protection from patents was the idea. Several major US companies got together to find ways to mitigate the risk of facing off against non-practicing entities (“NPE”), also termed “Patent Trolls.”  The answer to their problems came about as Allied Security Trust.
Allied Security Trust (“AST”) is a consortium of companies that pool resources to share costs in acquiring and licensing patents.  The companies pool their money in AST, which in turn buys patents on the open market.  AST then resells the patents on the condition that the buyer grants a free license to all of the members of the consortium.  This allows a member-company to have access to more patents at less cost than it would have access to on its own and worry less about infringing on patent owner’s rights, specifically, those rights owned by a NPE. 
Earlier this month, AST, which now includes Google and Ford Motor Company, purchased another 70 patents.  Perhaps taking a page out of Costco Wholesale’s book and “buying in bulk,” AST secured the patents for a total cost of $2.5 million. The price of a patent ranted from $25,000 to $390,000, putting the average price of a single patent at $128,000. 
One way AST is able to keep prices down is the way the program is structured. Patent owners submit a proposal to sell their patent to the group through AST at a take-it-or-leave-it price.
AST turned this practice into an annual event last year with the title “Industry Patent Purchase Program” (“IP3”). The program was an initial success but was adjusted this year to limit the participants to AST “members only” and narrowed the scope of the patented technologies up for sale to: (1) Internet of Things; (2) Wireless; (3) Content Delivery; (4) Networking; and (5) Communications. 
 ABOUT US, http://www.ast.com/about-us/asts-mission/ (last visited Feb. 15, 2018).
 SERVICES, http://www.ast.com/services/ (last visited Feb. 15, 2018).
 Malathi Nayak, Google, Ford, Others Complete Defensive Patent Group Buy, PATENT TRADEMARK & COPYRIGHT J. (Feb. 9, 2019), https://www.bloomberglaw.com/document/X7OEB2CG000000?emc=bnaptcj%3A11&jcsearch=bna%2520000001616bfad7b6a1eb6fff20b70000#jcite (last visited Feb. 15, 2018).
 See ABOUT US, supra note 1.
 See Nayak, supra note 4.
 See Nayak, supra note 4.
 Announcing IP3 – The First Industry Patent Purchase Program, (May 18, 2016), http://www.ast.com/news_article/calling-patent-owners-google-ibm-ford-cisco-leading-global-companies-want-buy-patents-new-ip3-purchase-program-ast/ (last visited Feb. 15, 2018).
 Gene Quinn, AST Acquires 70 Patent Assets in Fixed Price, Fixed Term Buying Program, IPWATCHDOG (Feb. 13, 2018), http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2018/02/13/ast-acquires-70-patent-assets-fixed-price-fixed-term-buying-program/id=93662/ (last visited Feb. 15, 2018).
Image Source: https://infograph.venngage.com/p/90715/what-are-patents.