Facebook Buys Most Of The AOL Patents From Microsoft That It Bought Just Weeks Ago

from the patent-shuffling dept

You may recall that, a few weeks ago, Microsoft bought all of AOL's patents for about a billion dollars. Last week, the news came out that Facebook had bid on the patents too, but lost. However, it's now worked out a deal to buy a bunch of those patents from Microsoft anyway for about $550 million. There's also some sort of cross-licensing as a part of this. The end result is that it's more like Microsoft and Facebook teamed up to pool resources to buy the patents from AOL. It's unclear who now has the Netscape patents, or what's going to be done with these patents. It's good that they didn't end up in the hands of pure trolls, but it still seems like a shame that these companies have to spend so much money on something of which the only value is in either keeping them from getting sued or in shaking down others for innovating. What happened to the days when companies could just compete with products in the marketplace?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:14am

    What happened was american fascism.

     

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    Glen, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:31am

    "It's good that they didn't end up in the hands of pure trolls". It's only a matter of time, As soon as these companies start to decline, they will troll and troll hard.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:45am

      Re:

      I think the patent system is broken, but I also think that as big tech companies become big, dominant companies, they act like big dominant companies. So do these economists:

      Freakonomics: Acemoglu and Robinson Answer Your Questions: "But when left unchecked, all companies, even successful and inventive ones like Microsoft and Google, will also try to monopolize the market, create entry barriers, and tilt the playing field to their favor. The robber barons did this very successfully."

       

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    John Doe, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:32am

    Is the tech sector slowly dying?

    The tech sector didn't use to rely on patents and it certainly didn't use to use them as a weapon. The tech sector didn't use to pay attention to what was going on in Washington either. Now the tech sector is getting beaten on by patents and by lobbyists. With all the money spent in the legal system, buying patents, buying politicians, this is going to leave less money for innovation. Less motivation for innovation if you know someone else will come along and extract a monopoly rent from you. So where does this leave the tech sector in 5 years? 10 years? Will it stagnate like other industries? Are the good times over?

     

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      Yartrebo (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:37am

      Re: Is the tech sector slowly dying?

      About 30 years ago, the common opinion in the tech sector was the computer code was not copyrightable, as they were just a bunch of instructions and equations. My, how times have changed :(

       

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        John Fenderson (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 1:33pm

        Re: Re: Is the tech sector slowly dying?

        Strictly speaking, copyrighting the computer code itself was accepted 30 years ago. I registered many such copyrights. I think that you may be thinking of patents.

        30 years ago, the idea that software could be patented in any but the most exceptional conditions was considered insanity. 30 years ago, "look & feel" was not considered something that could fall under the terms of copyright.

        30 years ago, copyright was considerably more respectable, and respected, than it is now. It's a shame that the major content companies have caused a respectable idea to become so egregious in implementation that it has caused such an erosion in the very thing they purport to need so badly.

         

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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:41am

    When these tech companies start collecting patents, I feel like I'm watching a game of Battleship.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:45am

      Re:

      I'm still waiting for those words from Microsoft - You sunk my battleship.

       

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:57am

      Re:

      When these tech companies start collecting patents, I feel like I'm watching a game of Battleship.

      It looks like a big game to me too, and now that some of these companies have more wealth than they know what to do with, this is how they play.

       

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        :Lobo Santo (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:02pm

        Re: Re: Pwnage Super Mega Ultra Competition

        I still say their excess funds would be better spent putting on a pay-per-view cage match with chainsaws & corporate executives--they could even agree to settle their differences out of court by this very method.

        It's a win-win-win scenario:
        1) the courts have less work (they're already slow as moles-asses in January)
        2) there are less corporate officers at one or both companies (new blood in, old blood out, AND job openings)
        3) The corps & the pay-per-view network might break even or get a profit on said endeavour, and the people are entertained.

         

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      E. Zachary Knight (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:58am

      Re:

      Its not Battleship. Its Global Thermonuclear War.

       

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        Baldaur Regis (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:04pm

        Re: Re:

        More like a clown pie-fight, with the pies costing a billion dollars each. GTW would be cheaper, and at least it would kill off SOME of the lawyer-trolls.

         

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        Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 2:23pm

        Re: Re:

        Its Global Thermonuclear War.
        [computer voice]How.. About.. A.. Nice.. Game.. Of... Chess?[/computer voice]

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 2:41pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          The only winning move is not to play....

          But then again, if you don't play, you'll be forced into bankruptcy trying to defend yourself from everyone else.

          I think this is more of a modern day version of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). I'm just waiting to see which of the major software giants fire the first strike igniting the first Worldwide Patent War.

          So let's all grab a bag of popcorn and raise the alert to DRAMACON-1.

           

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            Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 3:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I think this is more of a modern day version of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). I'm just waiting to see which of the major software giants fire the first strike igniting the first Worldwide Patent War.

            You'll be interested in this, then.

            Mark Cuban Invests In Vringo, Which Is Suing Google - Business Insider: "However, it's not hard to figure out what's happening here. Rather than sit on the sidelines and cheer for Yahoo to blow up Facebook, Cuban is jumping in on his own. He's going to try and nuke Google and cause a big change in the patent law."

             

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              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 3:40pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              So we have some of the big contenders like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook. Then we have some smaller, yet still big, guys like Samsung, Motorola, Yahoo, etc.

              The big guys are all building up their arsenals, like during the Cold War, trying to get one step ahead of the other guys. A few alliances here and there (Like Microsoft and Facebook in this deal) We have Yahoo, going more the way of North Korea (aka "the spoiled child"), "Pay attention to us or we'll nuke you!"


              So, Yahoo finally decides it has no other choice and fires off the lawsuits. Facebook counters with it's own counter lawsuit. This causes precedents in the legal system upsetting the balance between Apple and Samsung, which then start getting even uglier then it already is. Microsoft tries to capitalize on this by assisting Samsung in the hopes of striking a crippling blow to Apple. Google tries to back away from all of this but ends up getting it from all sides since everyone else has a target painted on Google. Meanwhile the other patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures decide now is the time to strike! The MPAA and RIAA decide that patent issues is really about "theft" so they sue everyone left standing for "copyright infringement" because they don't see why they shouldn't get a piece of all the lawsuit money being flung around. These "patent lawsuits" are causing loss revenue to them, even though it has nothing to do with them, since instead of paying for patent lawyers, all that money would have instead been used to buy music and movies.

               

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                Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 3:54pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I've been intrigued by all these big companies suing each other.

                It's like watching the rich throw money at baubles the rest of us could never afford. We're shut out of this, so we get to watch the destruction from the sidelines.

                 

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 10:07pm

        Re: Re:

        Man of peace starts war.

         

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      Mr. Oizo, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 10:59pm

      Re:

      You mean: they are taking on water ?

       

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    whisk33, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 11:59am

    "What happened to the days when companies could just compete with products in the marketplace?"

    How long ago was that!?!?!?

     

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    S O'watt, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:02pm

    The fabulously rich dumb robbing the fabulously rich dumber.

    That's all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:07pm

    It's time to ignore the big tech companies.

    I don't know why many of you think it's impossible. There are plenty of young sites and tech products out there waiting for us.

     

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    bengie, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:09pm

    ..

    Patents create jobs for lawyers.

    Speaking of frivolous jobs. It's not fair that patent lawyers don't contribute shit to the economy yet make tons of money. I think it is only fair that instead of welfare, we re-implement the ditch digger/filler useless jobs also.

    We could just pay people to stand around, but obesity is costing money, so we need to keep them working.

    Even better! Lets get money for fiber infrastructure. I want fiber to the house in every city over 4000 people. Ditch diggers be praised!

     

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      Ima Fish (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:20pm

      Re: ..

      And law clerks, and secretaries, and they buy a lot of suits, so haberdashers, and they drive fancy cars, so automobile manufacturers and dealers, and they're assholes, so they buy a lot of toilet paper...

       

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:59pm

      Re: ..

      Even better! Lets get money for fiber infrastructure. I want fiber to the house in every city over 4000 people. Ditch diggers be praised!

      God, yes.

      You get it. It's never been about reducing inappropriate transfer of wealth. It's just that some people have fixed the laws to transfer wealth to others who don't necessarily need it and that preserve the status quo rather than actually benefiting lots of people.

      We could also benefit from having more money into technologies that wean us off fossil fuels, but by God we're going to pump every last drop of available oil out of this country before we think of doing that. If we've got to frack every neighborhood to do it, we'll do it.

      And heaven forbid that we build more bike paths. Cycling is an international conspiracy to take our cars away from us. And what is the military thinking that it should go green. Oil for them, too.

       

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    heyidiot (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 12:59pm

    What a bunch of alarmist bullshit

    Can we not even wait until an acorn hits our head to start claiming that the sky is falling?

    Did you want these patents to NOT be purchased at all? How was that going to happen?

    From the point of view of a Microsoft or Google or Facebook, they have to defend against the potential of the actions that trolls would have taken against them. They pay the most, because they have the most to lose.

    Try to wait a see what they DO with the patent (bad OR good) before you start whining. These guys have plenty of real issues to which you can validly take exception now, without having to reach for this nonsense.

     

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    Edward Teach, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 1:33pm

    MSFT's foot in Facebook's door

    I would bet money that soon FB will run better in Internet Explorer than in other browsers, or require ActiveX, or something so that anyone not on Windows using IE can't see it as well. Or perhaps it will require some kind of Windows-only authentication.

    Also, look for a change in infrastructure, away from free/open stuff like PHP and Linux to Windows and .NET.

    It sort of happened to HotMail, so it's not unprecedented.

     

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    AzureSky (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 2:17pm

    the way i see it

    better MS and Facebook then Apple and their ilk, Apple would be suing everybody in site...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 4:24pm

    While you are frantically attacking record companies, Hollywood and creative workers, the real future is proceeding under your nose. If copyright and patent are dead, and the public wont stand for it any more, why are all the most powerful technology companies spending millions acquiring them?
    Take your 'stifling creativity' argument up to Google, Facebook and Apple.
    And when you win that war we can talk about movie makers and musicians.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 23rd, 2012 @ 5:05pm

      Re:

      Take your 'stifling creativity' argument up to Google, Facebook and Apple.

      In the last few months I have begun to wonder if all the emphasis on Big Media being evil is a way to divert attention from Big Tech being evil. Take down Big Media if you want, but don't assume Big Tech is on the side of the "little people" of the world. Any company that has to play the stock market game is pretty much going to do whatever boosts its interests.

       

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    staff, Apr 24th, 2012 @ 11:15am

    another biased article

    “Patent troll”

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”. This is just dissembling by large infringers and their paid puppets to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft. The fact is, many of the large multinationals who defame inventors in this way themselves make no products in the US or create any American jobs and it is their continued blatant theft which makes it impossible for the true creators to do so.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

     

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