What's in those Facebook patents it bought from IBM for an undisclosed amount in late March? Facebook is vague. But a trip through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Assignment Database reveals what's in the 750 patents Facebook bought recently from IBM – the ones it bought from Microsoft aren't up yet – and the database also reveals what Facebook received in super low-profile deal from Verizon.
So check out Facebook's growing war chest. What you will notice is that there sure is a lot of hardware in these patents. This is a huge and wide-ranging portfolio – even without being able to see yet what Microsoft is selling Facebook – that will help Facebook counter suits. But notice a theme in the IBM patents. Hardware. A lot of it.
Could a mobile Facebook smartphone, tablet, TV or net device be far away? You be the judge. At this writing, Facebook reps were unavailable for comment. I say it's only a matter of time.
Take a look at what Facebook just recorded as having purchased from Verizon. A lot of location-based services and other tech.
Now look at just one sampling – more below the break – of exactly what it scored from IBM. Facebook is filing these on the USPTO assignee database. Here's one bundle:
Surely, the huge patenting up of Facebook – it had 54 before Yahoo sued it last month and now is buying patents and licensing patent like crazy – is a necessary move for Facebook.
It creates a patent collection Facebook can use defensively or offensively, as it chooses. Facebook needs them to fight Yahoo and others. Yahoo complained last Friday in this filing that the patents Facebook is buying are just last minute purchases when, in fact, its own allegedly infringed (by Facebook) patents are Yahoo-native.
This is true but it isn't illegal. My colleague, renowned patent lawyer Tom Ewing, analyzed exactly this phenomenon of just-in-time patenting almost a week ago, explaining the nearly ubiquitous practice of just-in-time patenting and why it matters so deeply to tech consumers and tech pros. Basically, it allows companies to mount giant claims against one another based on patents they didn't themselves invent or utilize – costing millions to billions in litigation tech-wide, which adds cost to products you use and slows innovation, at best.
"Most of the Yahoo! patents in that offensive suit were Yahoo homegrown. But Facebook's countersuit is a collection of newly and rapidly snagged patents — Facebook hastily assembled 10 of them after Yahoo sued it (as court documents show) These are protection patents — aka just-in-time for court patents. Facebook bought eight of them for last minute protection and this is perfectly legal. Its fairness isn't as clear. Certainly, a young or poor individual inventor can't purchase litigating protective patents for enormous sums of money." (http://anewdomain.net/2012/04/28/facebook-microsoft-aol-ibm-patents-why-these-billion-dollar-deals-matter/)
And just-in-time patenting isn't new. Patent watchers will remember the 2010 TiVO vs. Verizon case, where Verizon purchased just-in-time patents to defend itself.
"Now that Facebook has nearly 1,500 patents, its competitors will be a lot less likely to seek to use their patents to terminate the company's business concerns. With that many patents in its arsenal," says Ewing. Facebook will be formidable from a patent standpoint and hard for competitors to attack. And yes, as Tom noted last week, eight of the ten Facebook patents Facebook is using to countersue Yahoo were purchased "just-in-time" and came from other companies right around the time Yahoo sued Facebook.
Now check out the reams of patents – 750 in all – Facebook received from IBM and notice the hardware (a lot of semiconductor and telecom) tech predominates.
More IBM incoming to Facebook patents. Think circuitry, memory routines, mobile, communications tech:
More hardware patents from IBM to Facebook:
Another new batch of IBM to Facebook patents:
You'll find some interesting tech in this bundle:
More IBM patents now in Facebook's collection:
Microsoft, too, would not comment to this reporter on what patent numbers are on the patents it sold to Facebook – but they'll be public record awfully soon. You can check as Facebook posts them with the USPTO. Just click here and enter Facebook in the field labeled assignee.
That'll show you the whole patent portfolio Facebook has purchased (or received as an "assignee").
At of this writing, the number of patents in the chest is at 854. Facebook will soon be recording the mysterious Microsoft patents. So keep your eye on the assignee database to find out what Microsoft isn't ready to reveal the minute it is forced into public record.
Gina Smith is a NYT best-selling author of iWOZ, the biography of Steve Wozniak. She is a vet tech journalist and chief of the geek tech site, aNewDomain.net.