AOL to Sell More Than 800 Patents to Microsoft
Faltering Internet icon AOL was able to squeeze out more than $1 billion from Microsoft for a trove of some 800 patents in an auction, the latest sign of just how valuable such portfolios can be for the world’s biggest technology companies.
“There is a fight for market share occurring on multiple fronts — technology, patents, advertising,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial who covers Microsoft. “Microsoft, more so than others out there, has been (using) its patent portfolio as a way to generate license fees. This should strengthen that.”
Microsoft refused to say what the patents cover. Benchmark analyst Clayton Moran said they revolve around Internet technology, including advertising, search and mapping. This would help Microsoft go up against Google Inc., a big rival that is ahead of it in all three areas.
Patents have become a hot commodity in the high-tech industry in recent years. They’re useful both for attack — for suing competitors — and for defense — for warding off lawsuits with threats of countersuits.
Rising star Facebook, for instance, recently purchased 750 patents from IBM Corp., a move that likely helped the company defend itself after Yahoo Inc. accused it of violating 10 Yahoo patents. Facebook shot back with its own lawsuit, claiming Yahoo is violating 10 Facebook patents.
Software patents can have broad applications, and thousands of patents can apply to a complicated product like a cellphone. Google is buying pho