Nothing is ever exactly as it seems in the business of technology and that certainly applies to AOL’s recent patent auction, won by Microsoft with a bid of $1.056 billion. This event wasn’t really an auction and had little to do with patents, yet it probably marks the peak of the current patent bubble.
On the face of it, AOL selling its 800 patents to Microsoft was about raising cash for the troubled online company, allowing it to pass some of that money on to disgruntled shareholders in the form of a one-time dividend or share buy-back. And the patents were substantial, since they included not just AOL’s own productivity but also that of Netscape, Mirabilis (ICQ), and any other AOL acquisitions over the years. […]