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Yahoo Preps Auction For 3,000 Patents Worth $1 Billion (arstechnica.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Wall Street Journal reports that bids are being accepted for nearly 3,000 Yahoo patents and pending applications. In April, Yahoo moved 2,659 patents into a patent-holding company called Excalibur IP LLC, which was seen as a first step toward a patent sale. "This represents a unique opportunity for companies operating in the Internet industry to acquire some of the most pioneering and foundational patents related to Web search and advertising," Yahoo said in a statement. Those invited to join the auction include "strategic buyers, private-equity firms, and investment firms focused on intellectual property," according to the Journal. Preliminary bids are due by the middle of this month, and the patents are expected to fetch more than $1 billion, according to "people familiar with the matter" who spoke to the Journal. Bloomberg, which also reported on the patent sale, said there was no official reserve price or bidding guidelines. Yesterday, Verizon submitted a $3 billion bid for Yahoo's core internet business. The sale will include 500 U.S. patents and more than 600 pending applications, but will not include the larger collection of patents going in the patent sale.
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Yahoo Preps Auction For 3,000 Patents Worth $1 Billion

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  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 @08:52PM (#52278631) Homepage

    I'm definitely telling all of my friends/family who remain on Y!mail to get out of dodge.
    Verizon and privacy (much like Verizon and security) are more like oil and water.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yahoo! is better on privacy, though? This is the company that handed over the emails of a journalist to the Chinese government and in doing so, got him imprisoned for ten years.

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      The technical groups which maintain themselves on Yahoo have already made plans to transfer their contents off despite Yahoo's interference and resume operations elsewhere. There is zero expectation that any buyer or especially Verizon would maintain them anyway although I suspect even Verizon will object legally on IP grounds once it happens.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    yea we'll see after the auction is over...
    • I tend to agree. If they are so valuable why aren't they generating the revenue that Yahoo currently needs. If anything, at this point they should be selling off their patents at a rate similar to John Oliver buying debt.
  • by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 @09:00PM (#52278667)

    Marissa Mayer is widely expected to stand down as CEO with any takeover deal and will leave with a severance package of around $110m.

    Run a business into the ground and make $100 million? What a great scam.

    • by radarskiy ( 2874255 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 @10:25PM (#52279009)

      The job of the CEO is to fulfill the demands of the board of directors. In the case of Yahoo, the interests of the board do no coincide with the long-term existence of the company.

      Why fault Marissa Meyer for doing the job demanded of her?

      • Did you by chance mean the top executives when you said "the board of directors"? The board doesn't typically have generous golden parachutes like the key executives do. Board members, who serve at the pleasure of the stockholders, get paid around $150,000/year or so to attend several meetings each year. If I were on the board, I would want to keep getting that money for many years.

        • I think many of these people serve on each other's boards and they make sure they are all mutually taken care of.
        • " If I were on the board, I would want to keep getting that money for many years."

          If you were the kind of person to be on the board that kind of money would be chump change, and easily replaced at that.

          The kind of people who get to be directors are the kind of people to have big piles of stock or represent people with big piles of stock. Their primary goal is to turn a big pile of stock into a big pile of cash.

          • I've been on a couple of boards.

            Typically, a board member is required to spend about $50,000 of their $150K compensation buying company stock, and hold that stock. That aligns their interests with those of investors, because typically most board members are NOT major stock holders. They are HIRED (nominated) by major stock holders, or more often by representatives of the stockholders, the fund managers. They are professional accountants, strategic managers, etc. People who are very successful are often

      • The job of the board is return value to stock holders by holding the CEO accountable. Selling off the assets is not a value proposition, it reduces long term revenue potential. Meyer failed to produce value , revenue growth, or strategic vision for that matter - ergo she failed her job and will appropriately be held accountable.
        • "Selling off the assets is not a value proposition, it reduces long term revenue potential."

          Selling off all the assets, reinvesting the capital gains elsewhere, and writing off the remainder is the ultimate in revenue potential to a certain type of person.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Like there was any other direction it was headed when she took over.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 @11:11PM (#52279181)
      The whole idea of working harder, or what you know in a supply-demand labor market is disproven by CEOs. Millions would take their job for 1/10th the pay. And, judging from some recent performances by high profile CEOs, couldn't do worse than the people that got the job.
    • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @06:52AM (#52280305)

      Run a business into the ground and make $100 million? What a great scam.

      Marissa Mayer did not run Yahoo into the ground. That had been accomplished before she ever arrived at the company. Frankly if anything she's done a fairly good job of mitigating the damage. Yahoo lost it's way a long time ago and has largely been coasting on previous accomplishments for the better part of a decade. I doubt anyone could have really fixed the problems Yahoo had. The best solution was always likely to be to sell the company. Anyone with a brain coming into a train wreck like Yahoo would have negotiated a severance package because why else would you bother taking on the job? The long term prospects of the company were poor and anyone with the chops to run the company would know it.

  • Patent trolls are working 24/7 to figure out which patents they want to bid on.

  • or does Yahoo seem to be dismantling their company piece by piece until nothing of value is left? It all strikes me as shenanigans to avoid paying out money they owe or maybe a Bain style investor gambit.
    • > does Yahoo seem to be dismantling their company piece by piece until nothing of value is left?

      There's already not much of value left. 90% of Yahoo's value (market cap) is the Alibaba stock they own. Investing in Yahoo is just an indirect way of investing in Alibaba, with a small serving of "maybe Yahoo has some potential" on the side. Yahoo hasn't been doing well in their business, so the best course of action may well be to sell off assets to other companies who can manage them better. The other o

    • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @07:00AM (#52280321)

      does Yahoo seem to be dismantling their company piece by piece until nothing of value is left?

      Yahoo hasn't been in good shape for quite a while now. The only real assets the company had that were really worth much were the stake in Alibaba and some residual business from 10+ years ago when the company was still relevant. A sale of the company and it's assets, together or separately, was clearly the most likely outcome even before Marissa Mayer became CEO. That's the way things go sometimes. Most companies don't last forever and Yahoo is no exception. It will continue to exist as a portion of some other company or companies and nothing of value will be lost. Yahoo hasn't been well managed for a while. The dumbest thing their management ever did was declining the buyout offer from Microsoft for an absurd amount of money. (Conversely that might be the biggest bullet Microsoft ever dodged...)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 08, 2016 @09:24PM (#52278751)

    Just remember Eastman-Kodak. Their patent portfolio was supposedly worth somewhere around $2B. They tried to sell it as a last ditch to save the company but their competitors joined up and kept the price down. They ended up getting only a tiny fraction of what they thought it was valued at and now there is effectively no more Eastman-Kodak. Granted, Yahoo isn't in nearly the predicament that Eastman-Kodak was, but it still may not be as lucrative as they think.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Their competitors? And who might those be? The entire film industry imploded and the remaining players from that space (e.g., Fuji) have survived by doing other things.

      If the portfolio sold for a fraction of $2B, a simpler explanation is that its value evaporated along with Kodak's business.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They pioneered digital photography and failed to capitalize it but they held a shit tonne of important patents for digital cameras. They also held a lot of patents useful to the movie industry.

  • I remember a time when the idea of AOL and Yahoo! being brought together into one company would have been the biggest of biggest news. Now it barely even garners a mention in the article.

    I mean, imagine if Google bought Netflix, merged it with Youtube... and nobody gave a shit. It really makes you wonder what the tech landscape will look like in another twenty years.
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Thursday June 09, 2016 @09:52AM (#52280953)

    Patents have no inherent value. You buy a patent because you intend to "monetize" the patent by developing a product or service that generates cash.

    OR

    You buy a patent for use as a legal weapon. The value of that patent is only relative to the potential legal costs of not holding the patent.

    If these patents were worth $1 billion in either case - why wouldn't Yahoo hold on to them and develop them for the benefit of their shareholders?

    The truth is they aren't worth this much - and Yahoo has FA ideas of how to monetize them.

    Yahoo is an old car heading to the junkyard to be chopped up for parts.

    • Whats going to happen here is that the patent trolls are going to grab these patents and use them to bludgeon the tech world for years to come. It'll hold back innovation and development of technology and make bucketloads of money for people whose most positive feature is that they are complete cunts.

      • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

        On the other hand, when's the last time Yahoo did something remotely novel enough to get a patent on? Perhaps most of these will expire before they can be used to inflict much damage. Then again, the same might be said for most of the Windows/GUI type patents Microsoft holds. Most of what's 'novel' about the Windows GUI (and FAT32's dual naming convention) was in Windows 95. Time's up - or it should be. I'm sure they've managed to get bogus 'reformulation' patents on all of it with each new release...

  • Yeah, that billion dollars worth of patents has done a lot for them -- they've managed to grow their market share to OVER ONE TENTH of Google's, with only a four-year head start.

    https://www.netmarketshare.com... [netmarketshare.com]

    But hey, if you want to buy the secret recipe to a glistening 1998-style "portal", be my guest. A billion dollars is a small price to pay to get into a competitive position against Netscape/AOL!

    Unless one of those patents is for a working time machine, the only value you'll get out of them will the t

  • Every time I see a bunch of patents up for sale, it's like seeing a car load of thugs in the neighborhood that you know don't belong there. Sooner or later they'll be trying to extract cash for those patents. Patent troll's dream. Bunch of patents to misuse. Almost as bad as giving a kid a revolver to play with, only with the kid it's probably safer.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner

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