Patents are becoming more valuable than technology, more valuable than engineers and more valuable than revenue in the tech world. In fact, it's starting to replace revenue for some companies it seems, as both AOL and Yahoo are hoping to cash in on their sizeable patent portfolio.
The difference is, AOL already cashed in, netting more than $1 billion from Microsoft for a huge chunk of its patents, including basically all Netscape patents.
The irony is not lost on anyone who was around to see IE crush Netscape in the late 90s, or anyone that's heard the tale. Yahoo, on the other hand, decided to sue Facebook
to cash in on its patents, a very poor decision for a number of reasons.
For one, it's lost what little faith people still had in the company. And no one in the tech industry seems willing to work with it, now that it betrayed one of the few friends it had, albeit not a particularly trustworthy one.
It's not that simple though. While no one is siding with Yahoo on its foolish errand and it all may end rather poorly for Yahoo, having to pay legal fees for both its lawyers and Facebook's or, worse yet, having its patents invalidated, AOL is leaving itself open to all sorts of attacks from patent trolls and legitimate businesses, like Yahoo, alike.
AOL may have a huge paycheck to boast with for now, but even the ailing company is still worth several billion dollars, which means there will be plenty of people willing and able to file a patent lawsuit against it.
Then again, patent trolls don't really have anything to lose, since they have no real business, so it's hard to threaten them with a patent lawsuit in retaliation. One thing is for sure, patents are becoming more important than an actual business, something that can't be maintained for long, hopefully.