Facebook appears to be taking the patent arms race seriously. The social network just snapped up 750 patents from IBM for an undisclosed price. Bloomberg says the acquisition brings Facebook onto a more even footing with its competition.
"They just don't have the patents that all their rivals have.... This 750-patent portfolio really helps them get ahead of the game a little bit more."
How far ahead? The New York Times says before this, Facebook didn't have a whole lot of patent firepower.
"The latest patent grab could significantly bolster Facebook's intellectual property assets. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it had applied for 503 patents in the United States and had been issued 56."
The acquisition comes right as Yahoo has leveled a patent suit against Facebook. VentureBeat suggests Facebook sees the danger — and potential — in intellectual property.
"Facebook battled 22 patent suits against it last year. Facebook's buying 750 patents from IBM, which controls a decades-old patent warchest, could be a sign that it is actually concerned about Yahoo's claims."
And Facebook's own SEC filing shows the company knew these kinds of suits were going to happen.
"...as we face increasing competition and gain an increasingly high profile, including in connection with our initial public offering, we expect the number of patent and other intellectual property claims against us to grow."
TechCrunch wonders if Yahoo will look for easier pickings now that Facebook is armored up.
"Facebook likely shelled out big bucks for its new arsenal. Poorer startups may not have that option, and they could become Yahoo's next targets."
Facebook isn't saying how much it paid for the patents, but The Register points out — money's not really an issue for Facebook if it wants to buy up protection.
"What will be interesting to watch, however, will be how much the holders of sufficiently protective patents will be able to squeeze out of Facebook in tough negotiations if the company goes on a protection-purchasing binge."
Whatever Facebook paid, 750 patents isn't much of a dent in IBM's stockpile. Last year alone, the company secured more than 6,000 new ones.