Microsoft bought AOL's patents in a deal valued at $1.056 billion and may have just accelerated a Web map war with Google.
In a statement, AOL said it will sell more than 800 of its patents and patent applications to Microsoft. The deal includes shares of an undisclosed subsidiary so AOL can take a loss for tax purposes.
The deal is good for both parties and the patent auction was apparently competitive, according to Microsoft.
Why would these patents be so hot? There's a Web mapping war going on. Let's connect a few dots:
- , an open competitor to Google on mapping technology.
- Mapquest is a backer of the OpenStreetMap initiative and has provided tilesets, APIs and other tools.
- 239 patents are attributed to Mapquest at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Rest assured some of those will be transferred to Microsoft in the AOL patent deal.
- The AOL sale highlights the power of intellectual property as technology companies duke it out.
- AOL just happened to buy Mapquest in 1999 for $1.1 billion and could claim a tax loss on that deal. AllThingsD noted that Netscape was the subsidiary Microsoft bought.
As mobile location-based services ramp mapping is vital. Google Maps is intertwined with corporate applications and various mashups too. Microsoft has powerful mapping tools too.
Add it up and its a mapping war that pits Google Maps against the OpenStreetMap/Mapquest/Microsoft trio. On March 1, Mapquest said on its developer blog:
Is 2012 the year of Open mapping? We've been ecstatic to see the energy around OpenStreetMap, and have noticed several applications recently convert to using MapQuest-OSM tiles and other companies like foursquare embrace OpenStreetMap as a foundation of their business.
Now it has Mapquest intellectual property in the fold, it will have the tools to either nudge out Google Maps or at the very least sue.
This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline "Microsoft's purchase of AOL patents may be about a Google map war."