AOL, Microsoft and Facebook trade patents


As technology companies continue battling to bolster their IP rights, Microsoft paid AOL around $1 billion for 925 patents in April 2012.

In an unexpected twist two weeks later, social network Facebook said that it was buying 650 of the 925 patents in a deal worth $550 million. Facebook said it will license the remaining 275 patents from Microsoft.

Under the original Microsoft-AOL deal, Microsoft said the patents covered its “core and strategic technologies”, according to a statement. Although the company did not disclose exactly what they cover, it owns patents for advertising, content management, social networking, multimedia and online chat technologies.

“This is a valuable portfolio that we have been following for years and analysing in detail for several months,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel.

One Facebook lawyer has been reported as saying that the most recent deal was another “significant” step in the company’s bid to build its IP portfolio.

The two deals represent the latest attempts by technology companies to seize the upper hand in the war over patents. In July 2011, a consortium including Microsoft and Research In Motion beat Google to 6,000 patents owned by telecoms equipment company Nortel. The following month, Google hit back by acquiring Motorola Mobility for its patents—a deal worth $12.5 billion.

More recently, Yahoo sued Facebook for patent infringement, before the social network hit back by alleging Yahoo had violated some of its own patents.

Meanwhile, Samsung and Apple are battling in court over patent rights for the iPhone 4S, iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus—showing how technology multinationals are increasingly desperate to protect their IP.

This article was first published on 01 May 2012 in World IP Review

AOL, Microsoft, Facebook, IP rights, patents

Trademarks and Brands Online