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Facebook shores up defenses, taps IBM for patents

Facebook has nabbed some 750 patents from Big Blue, a move that closely follows Yahoo's lawsuit accusing the social network of patent infringement.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
James Martin/CNET

In an effort to better protect itself from litigious competitors, Facebook has acquired a large collection of patents from IBM.

Citing an anonymous source, Bloomberg reported today that the two companies struck a deal that will give the social-networking giant 750 of IBM's patents, which cover "software and networking" technologies.

An IBM spokesperson declined to comment on or confirm the report. A Facebook spokesman confirmed the deal, but would not comment on the volume or specifics of the patent collection.

The deal comes at a time when Facebook is under fire from Web giant Yahoo, which last week targeted the popular social network in a patent infringement lawsuit. That suit argues that Facebook misappropriated some of Yahoo's patented technologies, specifically ones that cover customization and advertising.

That lawsuit closely follows Facebook's efforts to go public. The company filed an S-1 IPO prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month, giving the world a first look not only at its financials, but also information about its traffic, user base, future risks, and intellectual property.

To put the reported 750 patent number in perspective, Facebook has 56 issued patents under its belt, and 503 that have been filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Bloomberg said.

Patents now play an increasingly important role in the development of new technologies on the Web and for consumer electronics. That includes protecting companies from incoming lawsuits, as well as a means to strike lucrative and strategic deals with others as part of cross-licensing agreements.

IBM has long been the leading recipient of U.S. patents. According to a study by IFI Claims Patent Services published in January, IBM was granted 6,180 utility patents last year, up about 5 percent from 2010, and outpacing others like Samsung, Canon, and Panasonic.

Updated at 3:48 p.m. PT to include confirmation of the deal by Facebook.