AOL Inc. shares spiked significantly after the company announced it had sold 800 of its patents and licenses to Microsoft Corp. for roughly $1.06 billion. The company says that it will likely return some of the sale proceeds to shareholders, who have been feeling the hurt over the last several years as AOL has struggled to find its footing in the era of high-speed Internet.
AOL shares surged to $26.66 -- more than 43-percent increase -- pushing the company's market cap up to $2.53 billion. While the sale of 800 patents was great news for AOL shareholders, the same went for Microsoft executives, who were able to acquire several important technologies through patents that they either wholly or partially own.
Among those technologies that Microsoft bought was part of Netscape, one of the legacy technologies that AOL has owned since the 1990s. Microsoft will acquire the underlying patents for the old browser reports AllThingsD, but AOL will hold onto the brand including technologies such as the URL and its ISP.
Patents have become a powerful form of currency for technology companies in recent years. As Yahoo has exhibited in its lawsuit against Facebook, patents can be used in defensive, last-resort business tactics, and as Google has shown by purchasing Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., patents can be acquired to position your business in a better place long-term growth. While Microsofts' purchase of 800 patents may not stack up to these recent patent stories, the move is just another indication of well-established technology brands rearranging priorities to ensure future growth.