Tech patents mean big business, again!

Right on the heels of Facebook buying a hefty patent portfolio from IBM, an even bigger deal has gone down—to the tune of a billion dollars.

The sum was spent by Microsoft, who won an auction for 800 patents held by AOL. They also have licenses for the remaining 300 patents still held by AOL, and likewise, they have licensed back to AOL the 800 patents purchased.

It may be a lot of back-and-forth, but it’s all part of the strategy. Says Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft, “by participating [in the auction], Microsoft was able to achieve our two primary goals: obtaining a durable license to the full AOL portfolio and ownership of certain patents that complement our existing portfolio.”

It’s worth noting that Microsoft already has a lion’s share of tech patents, and makes millions from those that are licensed to Google’s Android platform alone.

Incidentally, this deal may be good news for Facebook as well, who after being sued for infringement by Yahoo, may have been a target for a similar suit from AOL. But as Microsoft is one of Facebook’s earliest investors, it seems they may not have much to worry about.

Just another example of the high stakes, power, and intrigue that is Patent Law!

For tech business, patents are power

You may not know it, but patents are working behind the scenes in virtually every part of our lives, including everyone’s favorite social network.

In advance of their initial public stock offering, Facebook recently bought a set of 750 patents from IBM, with the apparent aim of bolstering its patent portfolio in defense of a infringement lawsuit brought on by Yahoo.  The patent infringements are said to be linked to advertising technologies, as well as customization and messaging features.

Spokespersons for Facebook say they intend to “vigorously defend ourselves,” as an unfavorable outcome “could be material to our business, financial condition or results of operations.” It is speculated that some of the patents Facebook purchased may actually be licensed to Yahoo and essential to their operation, which would put Facebook in a state of advantage during the pending litigation.

Though the dust has yet to settle, this all goes to show that in a world where business is increasingly intertwined with technology, patents are power. And just as powerful as patents are, so is an education that provides the valuable skills required to work with them.

USPTO to open offices in Detroit, elsewhere

Proof that the patent field is booming: this spring the US Patent and Trademark Office is opening a brand new branch in Detroit! The office opens this July in a historic riverfront building and will provide over 100 new high-paying positions, a number that could expand over time if the new Regional Patent Office model proves successful.

The new Detroit office is just the beginning—the USPTO has engaged in President Obama’s Nationwide Workforce Program, and plans to hire more patent examiners and seek out additional technical expertise in locations across the country. There’s an apparent backlog of patent applications in Washington, and several more regional offices are slated to open up around the country to remedy the situation. That’s good news for new patent professionals—who’ll now be able to take their pick of location!

Detroit was singled out for the first phase due to the high percentage of scientists and engineers in the workforce, access to major research universities, and a high volume of patenting activity in the area. It seems cars aren’t the only thing that’s “imported from Detroit”—the city is a wellspring of newfound innovation and vitality.

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s a fun fact: not only does the state of Michigan rank 7th in patents issued in the United States, but if Michigan were a country, it would rank 9th in the world.

Director of the USPTO, David Kappos, says the regional expansion outside Washington is “part of our ongoing effort to recruit and retain the nation’s top professionals.” Will you be among them? Apply to Notre Dame’s Masters in Patent Law and be a part of the country’s resurgence of invention and innovation!