Microsoft AOL Patent Theater

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.  […]

By |April 12th, 2012|2012|39 Comments

The enemy of my enemy

Nortel Networks, the bankrupt Canadian telecom company, came that much closer to disappearing completely yesterday with the cash sale of its portfolio of 6000 patents for $4.5 billion to a consortium of companies including Apple, EMC, Ericsson, Microsoft, Research In Motion (RIM), and Sony. The bidding, which began with a $900 million offer from Google, went far higher than most observers expected and only ended, I’m guessing, when Google realized that Apple and its partners had deeper pockets and would have paid anything to win. This transaction is a huge blow to Google’s Android platform, which was precisely the consortium’s goal.

Google is the youngest of these companies and has probably the smallest patent portfolio, most […]

By |July 1st, 2011|2011|215 Comments

Trolling for Dollars

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen filed suit this week against a litany of Internet companies claiming they had violated patents awarded years ago to Allen’s now-defunct Interval Research. Many writers, including one passing himself off as me, claimed this made Allen a so-called “patent troll. ”

I don’t think that is the case.

Patent trolls are individuals or companies that habitually sue others over obscure patents. While the Interval patents generally are obscure, that doesn’t make them invalid. And the fact that Allen and then-partner Dave Liddle paid $100 million for the basic research behind those patents, well that hardly sounds like troll behavior.

If Paul Allen actually were a patent troll. he would have sued in […]

By |August 31st, 2010|2010|28 Comments