With Yahoo lawsuit looming and IPO coming soon, Facebook buys $550M in patents from Microsoft (AOL)

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer showing off Facebook feature

Above: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Facebook is paying Microsoft $550 million for access to 650 patents, All Things Digital’s Ina Fried reports. Facebook is facing a patent lawsuit from Yahoo and is expected to IPO in May 17th.

It appears that a number of these patents come from the $1 billion in intellectual property that Microsoft purchased from AOL earlier this month. Sources close to the deal said that Microsoft and Facebook wanted to parnter on the purchase of the AOL patents all along, but the rules of that auction wouldn’t allow it.

As the patent wars heat up, these things are changing hands like hotcakes. Yahoo and AOL are desperate to turn their fortunes around, and patents are the most valuable ammunition they have. Meanwhile, rising titans like Facebook are flush with cash but short on IP.

For the nitty gritty on this, Microsoft has issued a press release:

REDMOND, Wash. and MENLO PARK, Calif. — April 23, 2012 — Microsoft Corp. and Facebook announced today a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will assign to Facebook the right to purchase a portion of the patent portfolio it recently agreed to acquire from AOL Inc. Facebook has agreed to purchase this portion for $550 million in cash.

In the initial AOL auction, Microsoft secured the ability to own or assign approximately 925 U.S. patents and patent applications plus a license to AOL’s remaining patent portfolio, which contains approximately 300 additional patents that were not for sale.As a result of today’s agreement, Facebook will obtain ownership of approximately 650 AOL patents and patent applications, plus a license to the AOL patents and applications that Microsoft will purchase and own.

Upon closing of this transaction with Facebook, Microsoft will retain ownership of approximately 275 AOL patents and applications; a license to the approximately 650 AOL patents and applications that will now be owned by Facebook; and a license to approximately 300 patents that AOL did not sell in its auction.

“Today’s agreement with Facebook enables us to recoup over half of our costs while achieving our goals from the AOL auction,” said Brad Smith, executive vice president and general counsel, Microsoft. “As we said earlier this month, we had submitted the winning AOL bid in order to obtain a durable license to the full AOL portfolio and ownership of certain patents that complement our existing portfolio.”

“Today’s agreement with Microsoft represents an important acquisition for Facebook,” said Ted Ullyot, general counsel, Facebook. “This is another significant step in our ongoing process of building an intellectual property portfolio to protect Facebook’s interests over the long term.”The parties are evaluating the accounting treatment for these transactions. These transactions are also subject to customary closing conditions, including clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended.


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