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Thursday, April 12, 2012
Mozilla Skeptical About Microsoft's Acquisition of AOL Patents

Mozilla says that at present, Microsoft 's move to buy 800 patents from AOL does not pose "an immediate" danger to the organization.

Such acquisitions generally prevent others from obtaining the patents, can be used using for cross-licensing or even patent license programs.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are key competitors in this battle, and Google recently increased its portfolio size with the acquisition of 17,000 Motorola patents. Other players hold thousands of patents as well, topped out by IBM with 6,000+ new US patents in 2011 alone.

"Obtaining a huge chunk of patents and licenses in one move, saving time along the way, makes sense for broader reasons, and in this context it is hard to imagine it's driven by anything related to Mozilla. Frankly, there are easier ways to influence the market without near the attention or the cost," wrote in a blog Harvey Anderson, who works at Mozilla on legal and business affairs.

"In this particular case, it would seem that the exposure is even lower because portions of the Mozilla code base are already licensed under some set of these patents," Anderson added.

While this acquisition is surreal for many Mozilla folks that worked at Netscape including those who are inventors for some of the patents, Anderson does not view this as a threatening move in and of itself.

However, he is worried about what Microsoft will ultimately do with these patents. "If Microsoft maintains ownership of the patents, on the margins, it is better than having them sold off piecemeal to non-practicing entities, often called IP trolls. If they end up in the wild, it's not a good thing," he said.

"It would be great to see Microsoft express its intentions in this regard or put some protections around the portfolio if it transfers the patents," Anderson added.

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