Microsoft Buys Netscape Web Patents From AOL To Attack Google

Jun 4, 2006
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Summary: Microsoft didn’t just buy AOL’s patents, they bought what was left of its one time fierce Web browser rival Netscape’s intellectual property to use in attacking Google’s Android and Chrome.

When AOL agreed to sell more than 800 patents to Microsoft for a cool 1.1-billion in cold cash, it didn’t just buy patents. Microsoft seems to have bought, according to AllThingsD, the “underlying patents for the old [Netscape] browser.” However, AllThingsD may not have realized just how incredibly vital those Netscape patents are to all Web services and browsers.

There was a time when this deal would have been enormous news. Netscape was once a fierce rival to Microsoft. Indeed, it was Microsoft’s illegal attacks on the Netscape browser that led both to Netscape’s eventual decline and death and the Department of Justice’s taking Microsoft down a peg.

Netscape, today, though is little more than an obscure brand name, a URL and an ISP, which AOL will keep, and little else. Indeed, in AOL’s Security & Exchange Commission 8-K describing the deal, AOL merely states that, in addition to selling Microsoft patents and granting them the right to use all of AOL’s other patents, “The transaction is structured as a purchase of all of the outstanding shares of a wholly-owned non-operating subsidiary of the Company and the direct acquisition of those patents in the portfolio not held by the subsidiary.” What is “that non-operating subsidiary? That would be Netscape.

Guess what? This is still gigantic news.
So what will Microsoft do with these core Web patents? My bet is that they’ll use them, or threaten to use them anyway, against their top rival: Google. Consider, Chrome is on its way to overtaking Internet Explorer as the world’s most popular Web browser.. Microsoft wants Windows 8 to be a major player on tablets and smartphones, and Google’s Android is one of the leaders there. What better way to try to trip their opponent than that early 21st century business favorite tactic: the patent lawsuit?
Read the entire article at ZDNet.

It wasn't mentioned in the article, but I wonder if they might also go after Firefox, given that it's based on the old Netscape code.


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