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AOL sells off $1 billion in patents to Microsoft

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In today’s first bit of “boring, but important” tech news, AOL announced early this morning that it has sold off more than 800 of its patents to Microsoft, for more than $1 billion, reports TechCrunch, which is owned by AOL. Microsoft has also agreed to license about 300 additional patents from AOL, as part of the deal.

“The agreement with Microsoft represents the culmination of a robust auction process for our patent portfolio,” said Tim Armstrong, AOL’s Chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We continue to hold a valuable patent portfolio as highlighted by the license we entered into with Microsoft. The combined sale and licensing arrangement unlocks current dollar value for our shareholders and enables AOL to continue to aggressively execute on our strategy to create long-term shareholder value.”

AOL says that the patent deal, for which Microsoft will pay $1.056 billion in cash, will be completed by the end of 2012. The Internet company will maintain ownership of over 300 patents for a wide variety of applications, from search and content management to advertising and mapping. AOL will also receive a “perpetual” license of the 800 patents it is selling to Microsoft.

The cash deal provides a serious boost to AOL’s value. The company had just over $407 million in cash, at the end of last year. Once the deal goes through, it will likely have more than three times that amount. At the end of trading on April 5, AOL’s total market cap was just $1.75 billion.

As TechCrunch notes, the deal also has implications for Facebook, which is currently embroiled in a fierce patent fight with Yahoo, another aging Internet giant with a trove of patents at its disposal. Because Microsoft owns part of Facebook (about 1.6 percent), it is unlikely that they will be used to hurt the social network’s business.

According to intellectual property research firm EnvisionIP, the types of patents AOL is selling Microsoft cover the gamut of connected technology, with most of them (about 17.5 percent) falling in the “online communication” category.

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Lead image via Muemoon/Shuttertock

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