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Patent Trolls vs. Progress

Published on April 13, 2012
by Andy Kessler

Microsoft announced this week that it’s paying America Online $1.1 billion in cash for 800 of its patents. This comes just nine months after Apple, Microsoft and others beat out Google and Intel for control of Nortel Networks’ 6,000 patents, paying a then astounding $4.5 billion in cash. And in August of last year, Google announced a deal for Motorola Mobility along with their 24,000 patents for $12.5 billion. What’s going on here?

It goes back to March 2006, when BlackBerry phone maker RIM agreed to pay a whopping $612.5 million to settle a mobile email patent infringement case with patent-holding company NTP. This comes to $6 for each BlackBerry ever sold. So-called patent trolls, those that own patents but don’t sell products or services, are a pain in the side of those that do.

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