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Facebook Buys 750 IBM Patents 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the business-imitates-black-market-weapon-deals dept.
eldavojohn writes "Considering IBM's portfolio gained 6,180 last year alone, it's not a huge number. But after a dispute with Yahoo a couple weeks ago, Facebook has purchased 750 patents from IBM. That's over thirteen times the 56 they were reportedly holding. The humorous rumor is that Yahoo might have been licensing these patents from IBM. If you can't beat 'em, buy the patents they're licensing from another company. Another rumor is that Facebook might be just getting started in their bid to expand their patent portfolio (video). No word yet whether the purchased patents directly pertain to Yahoo's infringement claims on messaging, privacy controls, advertising, customization and social networking."
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Facebook Buys 750 IBM Patents

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2012 @05:17PM (#39456415)

    The fact that a single company can get over six thousands patents in a single year is proof enough that it's a bad idea to allow software patents.

    Competition and free market is now impossible because of these stupid patents that should never have been granted in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So setting some arbitrary limit on the number of patents a corp can get is going to encourage a free market?
      "Sorry IBM, you've had your thousand patents for the year - let someone else invent things for a change".

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The sheer magnitude of their annual patent count seems to imply that these patents are fairly trivial, and probably not worth patenting for any reason other than squeezing money out of people who dare to make their own things.

        • by bws111 (1216812) on Friday March 23, 2012 @05:35PM (#39456571)

          It implies no such thing. IBM is a very large company, with lots of researchers, developers, and engineers in many disciplines. Now, how about an example of IBM squeezing money out of people who dare to make their own things?

          • by avirrey (972127) on Friday March 23, 2012 @06:02PM (#39456831)
            What AC is trying to say is 64K should be enough for anybody.

            --
            X's and O's for all my foes.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Ahem, emulators of IBM z [arstechnica.com] systems?

            Probably the same for IBM i. IBM has a monopoly on these systems and make a fortune selling vastly overpriced hardware for those of their customers trapped with legacy systems. Oh, so your CPU is too slow? Either pay $$$$$ to unlock it from 100 MHz to 1.9 GHz (because we crippled it when we sold it for $$$$$) or pay $$$$$ for a new system that would cost less than 10% as (high-quality) off-the-shelf PC hardware.

            It's a scandal, really. I hope they eventually lose all their cu

            • by bws111 (1216812) on Friday March 23, 2012 @08:27PM (#39457881)

              You will notice that nowhere in that article does it actually say that IBM did sue, threaten to sue, or even send a cease and desist letter to anyone. In fact, all IBM said was that they would not license their software to run on TurboHercules. That some paranoid guy interpreted that as IBM 'threatening' him, well, that is really not IBM's problem.

              As for the rest of your little rant: so what? If you need full performance of the machine, you pay for it. If you don't, you don't. Where, exactly, is the 'scam'? And if you think a mainframe provides the same value as off-the-shelf PC hardware, well, then there is really no point in trying to have an intelligent discussion with you. And BTW, the processors run at >5GHz.

              • You already have the machine. It's been built and delivered to you at a price you already paid. Now they want you to pay again to actually use it. Perhaps it's legal, perhaps it's a good business model for them, but it's kind of weird. It would make sense it the buy was actually considered a lease, but I thought that IBM was prohibited from doing that back in the sixties or so.
                • by bws111 (1216812)

                  This is completely false. You have and can use (without paying another dime) exactly what you paid for. You did not negotiate for, have built, pay for, and receive a number of chips and wires. You negotiated for, had build, paid for, and had delivered a certain number of z processors running at a certain speed. If you want something DIFFERENT (different number of processors, different speed) than what you paid for, they will charge you money and deliver what you now want. This is nothing at all like a

    • by Surt (22457) on Friday March 23, 2012 @05:27PM (#39456499) Homepage Journal

      IBM doesn't get all that many software patents. Theirs are mostly hardware innovations.

  • I wonder how long before they start to Edison these patents?
  • Patentnopoly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday March 23, 2012 @05:29PM (#39456515)

    It sounds like the board game "Monopoly" needs an update. Who cares about hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place? Own the most patents, and charge the highest licensing fees, and you win!

    "I have one word of advice for you, son, Patents! Not plastics, Patents!"

    • Forget go, you collect $200 for each player just for it being your turn!
    • You should patent your idea as "method to derive entertainment from the current state of the patent system".
    • Own the most patents, and charge the highest licensing fees, and you win!

      I have a suggested modification to the rules, since patents still exist in 2012: nobody plays until one of the players initiates litigation. At that point all the other players cooperate and nuke him from orbit. Play again ceases until somebody decides to litigate. Repeat until the game ceases to exist.

  • This might be a crackpot idea but it just popped into my head so I haven't thought it through...

    As a compromise to combat patent trolls, litigation, the stifling of innovation, etc., how about changing the law so that once a patent changes hands it enters the public domain or ceases to be. It's imperfect, but has many benefits.

    It would protect the initial inventor/patentor. You wouldn't have the same outcry as if you banned patents all together. However, is also a limitation as it would not stop li
    • by bws111 (1216812)

      The biggest effect that would have would be harm to the actual inventors. And yes, it is pretty unthinkable that a company would spend real dollars to purchase something that has no value. If the owner of the patent is unwilling to license the patent for a reasonable fee, what makes you think they would be willing to sell it for a lesser price?

    • by Digicrat (973598)

      This might be a crackpot idea but it just popped into my head so I haven't thought it through...

      As a compromise to combat patent trolls, litigation, the stifling of innovation, etc., how about changing the law so that once a patent changes hands it enters the public domain or ceases to be. It's imperfect, but has many benefits.

      It would protect the initial inventor/patentor. You wouldn't have the same outcry as if you banned patents all together. However, is also a limitation as it would not stop litigation brought on by the original inventor. But it would put an end to patent trolls and would enable patents to enter the public domain at a much quicker rate. Sure, patent transactions would slow, but it's not unthinkable that a company would purchase a patent to protect itself from a lawsuit knowing that that very purchase will destroy the patent.

      I like that idea, though having it expire immediately upon changing hands would just prevent them from being sold in the first place. I think a far better solution (as in easier to get legislated) would be to impose a "half-life" on patents. Each time a Patent is sold/transferred the remaining time until the patent expires is cut in half. A win-win all around.

      For that matter, such a rule would work nicely for copyrights to. Particularly if the half-life rules are crafted to apply to biological people an

    • I suggest limiting patent infringement damages to the actual value of the patent. If a non practicing entity (aka troll) buys a patent for, say $5,000, they can't reasonably claim damages in excess of that amount. (Obviously, that's the maximum amount, not the amount as a company could play pricing games to inflate the value).

      For a practicing entity (particularly one that invented the patent), establishing the value is more difficult, but they could limit it to stopping the patent infringement plus expe

    • by rolfeb (1218438)

      There's probably a bunch of interesting ways that [software] patents could be modified to make them work better. For example,

      1. Patents can only be sold by individuals. If a company owns a patent, it can only be transferred to another company if the company is bought out.

      2. Once a patent has been granted you have 18 months [say] to come up with a concrete implementation and sell N units. Otherwise it lapses into the public domain.

      3. You cannot sue for infringement of a patent unless you have a concrete impl

  • by timeOday (582209) on Friday March 23, 2012 @05:34PM (#39456565)
    Patents are like movie scripts - most of them never go anywhere. If I were managing IBMs IP I would be more proud of selling 750 than being granted 6000, because it's an external validation of the quality, as opposed to quantity, of the patents. (And by "quality" in this case I really just mean "marketability," or "return on IBM's investment in research," as opposed to something harder to quantify, like scientific merit).
  • by mikeytag (1835928) on Friday March 23, 2012 @05:40PM (#39456613)

    As a developer, it really disheartens me to think that any application I create that becomes popular is likely to be litigated against for patent violations. I've never searched for patents or seen one and thought "AHA! That's how I'll make this algorithm!" No, I just code and create logical solutions to problems that are presented.

    No one should be able to claim ownership of the fact that 2 + 2 = 4 and force others to always use 3 and 1 to do addition for the next 20 years. God forbid, someone patents 3 + 1 = 4!!!

    • by rolfeb (1218438)

      I think it's probably not that bad. All software out there infringes on multiple patents.

      The vast majority will never see a lawsuit for various reasons:

      - The invention is not obvious (especially with software patents)
      - You're not a big enough target to make it worthwhile
      - The patent is only used for cross-licensing / intimidation purposes
      - The patent holder would be too embarrassed to sue over a patent they shouldn't have been granted in the first place (I'd like to think this happens)

    • I just code and create logical solutions to problems that are presented.

      commie.

    • If you ever generate $10billion, you can be sure you will get legal problems, no matter how you do it. Even if it's just from some guy who tripped over your doorstep on the way in.
  • I always feel like an insect watching titans move around and sue each other when i read stories like this.
    • by petsounds (593538)

      By the time corporations are going around suing each other over patents, they're just walking dead. Thoughtfulness, innovation, and often humanity has already long passed from their corpus and what's left is a rotting stench of lawyers and predatory executives.

  • by Xtifr (1323) on Friday March 23, 2012 @06:29PM (#39457023) Homepage

    Given the recent SCOTUS decision about the patentability of "laws of nature" (Mayo v Prometheus), following right on the heels of Bilski, I would be dumping software patents as fast as I could, and would be overjoyed to find someone like Facebook willing to pay me for them.

    Once again, IBM proves that they're no dummies. :)

  • To me, mass patent purchase means they have more money than they can usefully spend on product development. This because the stock market disconnected from real product development a long time ago, now it's just money chasing money. There may be some savings in patent licensing, almost certainly not enough to justify purchase.

  • House of Cards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by beenThereBefore (2602207) on Friday March 23, 2012 @06:51PM (#39457181)
    The software patent end of the industry is a house of cards. Currently it only holds up because everyone plays along. In order to sustain the house of cards all the major players have to cross license all of their patent portfolios. No one really even knows which patents they are violating, or being violated at any time.

    You only see small skirmishes play out, like Motorola vs Apple, major ones are always settled. The major players use this cross licensing to try and keep small and medium sized companies from coming into their space. Once you generate enough revenue to put up a good fight, they have to let you in 'the club'. Facebook crossed that threshold. FB will now cross license with all the other players.

    A system initially designed to foster innovation is now a detriment. The mass cross licensing of patents should be considered in anit-trust light. It allows the major players to share ip, while blocking the others and keep their prices artificially high as a result. No different than direct collusion. The system should be unwound.
  • Best bang for the buck is to spend lobby money on correcting the problem. I hoped long ago that Google and Facebook, who have been built on Open Source knowing the dangers and harm of "Business Process Patents", would fight to fix the problem. Instead, both seem content to play the game.

    The worst part, is that it costs them more money to play the game than it would to lobby to correct the issues. I still have hope, especially considering how Google has been beating up Oracle like they are a Kanya girlfrie

    • by guttentag (313541)
      Doing the right thing always seems logical, but when you look at the bigger picture it's not always effective.

      Take your commute, for instance. If the people around you did the right thing, they would leave three seconds between their bumper and the car in front of them. Everyone would hit their brakes less frequently, traffic would flow more smoothly, there would be fewer accidents, less wear and tear on the road, and everyone would get where they were going faster and with less stress. Makes sense, righ
  • Doing a little work on their own with little guidance from management. There's a patent program where, they award a few dollars and give your these impressive certificates for successive levels of patent applications and ultimately, an award or two. Because keep in mind there's a huge difference between an application and an award. In order for an application to make it as far as being submitted to the government, it has to pass through an army of attorneys at IBM.

    If you are smart enough and fortunate enough to make it through that gauntlet. then the patent goes into a huge database where a different organization scours the countryside hither and yon looking for people who might either buy them, license them or potentially infringe them in which case another battalion of attorneys gets to work.

    The fact that IBM even parted with this property means they sold them for more than what they were worth to IBM. And facebook is in way over their depth if they think they're getting the better of Big Blue.

    • The fact that IBM even parted with this property means they sold them for more than what they were worth to IBM. And facebook is in way over their depth if they think they're getting the better of Big Blue.

      The patents may be worth a hell of a lot more to Facebook than to IBM. If these things pertain to instant messaging, online gaming platforms, managing online user profiles, ranking through friends, virual currency, and all the other crap Facebook is doing or planning to do, then IBM's price will be well worth the fee. While they may be next to useless to IBM, Facebook could use such patents to defend against suits from competitors, or sue those competitors in turn.

      • by gelfling (6534)

        It's highly unlikely fb would want to use intellectual property they didn't already have a very clear sense of needing to use it for their own deployment and not in any financial or legal faculty in order to punish someone else. If Yahoo or Microsoft were to sue fb for infringement against property owned by IBM then they'd have to contend with the armada of IBM and not fb, and that would not be very wise. IBM fought the US government to a stalemate eventually agreeing to a consent decree that was MORE profi

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