GE and the 4 year-old product development company Quirky have come to an agreement that will allow the public to use many GE patents to spur invention and innovation. The initial deal will make 200 patents available to the public, but will eventually include thousands.
Quirky’s model provides revenue sharing to inventors in its online community while the company handles manufacturing and distribution. The terms of GE and Quirky’s deal have not been made public, but GE is likely going to receive a portion of any revenue generated from inventions using its patents in an arrangement that is beneficial to both companies.
Access to these patents will come as welcome news to small inventors, who have been increasingly targeted by patent trolls, as a way to use the lab-tested patents of a large corporation as protection against legal retribution from patent trolls. As patent and copyright laws lag further and further behind the realities of modern technology, private agreements designed to make patents more accessible are attempting to address these problems and are becoming more and more common.