Just a few weeks ago, we had mentioned reports that AOL was looking to sell its patents
. Sometimes, those kinds of things take a while, and may even involve auctions and whatnot. However, it looks like AOL got the deal done quickly, selling over 800 patents to Microsoft
for just over $1 billion. The "good news" here is that the patents don't end up in the hands of a pure
patent troll, who will do nothing but
sue over them. The bad news, of course, is that Microsoft is
quite aggressive in suing others for patent infringement anyway, and you can expect some of these patents to start showing up in wasteful, innovation-hindering lawsuits before too long. And, of course, there's the natural dead-weight loss of a ton of money going into buying patents, rather than directly into actual innovation.
Of course, there's an interesting twist in all of this. Peter Kafka notes that Microsoft basically bought all Netscape assets
outside of the name/trademarks, etc. From a historical standpoint, that's pretty interesting, seeing as how big the early internet battle was between Microsoft and Netscape for who would win the war to control the window into the internet. It would then be especially ironic (and ridiculous) if Microsoft used those patents to sue others, after spending so much time trying to kill off Netscape... Such is the bizarre world of patents these days, I guess.