So it seems that Amazon has woken up to the threat and opportunities in patents. Reuters is reporting this morning that Amazon is looking to hire more IP experts. They’ve hired executive recruiting firm Argos Search to help Amazon find an intellectual property “Acquisition and Investment Leader” to “identify and evaluate strategic IP acquisition and licensing opportunities”.
Here’s more from the job description: “At Amazon we are rapidly growing in many new and exciting technology areas,” the company said in the job posting. “To support and protect our expansion we are seeking an executive to work with our business teams to identify and procure intellectual property.”
Reuters is framing this as a sign that Amazon is planning to build a bigger presence in the mobile device sphere, but I’m not so sure.
The search suggests that Amazon is trying to amass more patents, either through acquisitions of patent-rich companies, purchases of patent portfolios or licensing, according to intellectual property experts. It is also a sign that the world’s largest Internet retailer is serious about being a long-term player in mobile devices and digital content, they say.
Amazon is a retailer, not a hardware developer, and all of their devices were created in partnership with another company (Foxconn, Freescale, Quanta). No, I’d say that this is more likely just a general push into patents, and it will likely influence all their activities, nit just one small part.
The good news here is that the money Amazon invests in a patent portfolio will have to come from somewhere, and that means they won’t be able to drop the prices quite as much as they’d like. This will take some of the pressure off the competition.
Of course, the bad news in today’s story is that Amazon is building up a patent portfolio. And once they’re past their prime, it is almost inevitable that they’ll follow in the footsteps of Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other has-been patent trolls. Amazon will likely use the portfolio to bludgeon the competitors who are out-competing them.
That would be a shame, and it’s also a marked difference from their response to their competition. Amazon buys any retailer that does a better job in a given niche. That’s a diverse group, and it includes Woot, The Book Depository, Zappos, and more. None of those little guys were a serious threat (aside from maybe TBD), and now they won’t be.
Of course, this is Amazon we’re talking about. I suspect they are capable of coming up with some novel patent about filing and organizing patents. Hopefully they’ll use it to go after other trolls, thus saving all the innovators money.