As part of the regular business analysis that I do on an ongoing basis, I like to keep an eye out for acquisitions made by search engines, and look at the technology that those companies being acquired have filed patents for.
When I heard about Google’s acquisition of Skybox, I jumped to the assumption that low-level orbiting satellites might be used in a manner similar to Google’s Project Loon to spread internet access to a wider audience across the globe. Or they might be used to make Google Maps a lot better with high resolution and frequently updated satellite images.
And then I looked at the patent filings assigned to Skybox Imaging, and quashed those assumptions, or put them off as secondary reasons why Google might have purchased the satellite company.
How much of an impact might high resolution and very frequently updated satellite images have upon a business analysis?
In November, Twitter disclosed in an amendment to its S1 filing that IBM was demanding licenses for three patents issued in 2006 that it claimed that Twitter was infringing upon. As far as we know, IBM didn’t file a lawsuit against Twitter, and this took place shortly before Twitter held its initial public offering.
This dispute appears to have been resolved, but we don’t know all of the details, and it’s questionable if we will ever learn about them. Here’s what the amendment said about the matter:
From time to time we receive claims from third parties which allege that we have infringed upon their intellectual property rights. In this regard, we recently received a letter from International Business Machines Corporation, or IBM, alleging that we infringe on at least three U.S. patents held by IBM, and inviting us to negotiate a business resolution of the allegations.
Google acquired the company Wavii for a little more than $ 30 Million in April. There was some speculation that Wavii was an effort to match Yahoo’s purchase of Summly, which summarizes news from the Web.
A Wavii app did do just that – acquired and summarized news from the Web. When Wavii emerged from stealth mode, it was touted as a personalized news aggregator based upon topics rather than keywords. The app closed down with Google’s acquisition of the company, and instead of providing news aggregation services, it appears that the technology will help fuel Google Now, Google’s Knowledge Base, and Google Glass, according to the TechCrunch article linked above.
So what is that technology?
A couple of weeks ago, a federal bankruptcy judge approved the sale of Kodak’s patent portfolio to a group of companies that joined together to buy them at a discounted price. The group included Apple, Google, Facebook, and others. There were more than 1,000 patents involved, related to photography, storing photos, and sharing photos.
It makes sense for Google to have been interested in those patents, considering their involvement in smart phones with cameras, and their work on Google Glass, where taking pictures and recording video will likely be one of its strengths.
With Google Fiber, Android Operating Systems, and Motorola Phones, the business of Google is becoming as much about moving data across networks as it is in sending search data across networks. I noticed in Google’s patent assignments today a new entry which shows more movement in this direction.
Google acquired 58 patents from Proxim Wireless Corporation in an assignment noted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as having been executed on July 9th, 2012, and recorded on August 7th, 2012. The USPTO doesn’t include any of the financial details of the transaction. Proxim Wireless still has a number of patents left in their portfolio, and the Proxim Wireless website is still online.
According to a press release for Proxim, the company has been engaged in the following types of business:
Using a combination of WLAN, Wi-Fi Mesh and Point-to-Point backhaul technologies, Proxim enables a wide variety of fixed and mobile applications, including: Continue reading
One of the biggest names in peer to peer technology is Skype. In 2008, Skype settled with Mangosoft Technologies in a patent infringement case over a patent apparently related to “dynamic directory service”. Mangosoft’s victory in the case wasn’t enough to keep the company thriving and in May, Mango Capital announced that their subsidiary, MangoSoft Intellectual Property, Inc., sold all of its patent rights for $3.2 million.
While Google used peer-to-peer technology in GMail video, the company blogged a couple of days ago that that video communication service would be replaced with Google Hangouts and no longer rely upon peer-to-peer technology.
Google was assigned 9 granted patents and 4 pending patents from Mangosoft Intellectual Property Inc., as noted in an assignment executed on May 1, 2012 and recorded on July 31, 2012. Among the patent filings is a granted patent and 2 pending patents titled “Dynamic Directory Service.” This directory service “maintains a directory in which is stored both (1) directory information and (2) the physical layout of the directory itself” over the network itself rather than in a centralized location.
An announcement today on the Meebo blog tells us that Google has acquired Meebo. Meebo was founded in 2005 by Sandy Jen, Seth Sternberg and Elaine Wherry, and is headquartered in Mountain View, California. As noted on the PC Mag article, Google Buys Social Sharing Company Meebo:
A Google spokesman said in a statement that the company is always looking for better ways to help users share content and connect across the web, as in daily life. “With the Meebo team’s expertise in social publisher tools, we believe they will be a great fit with the Google+ team,” the company said. “We look forward to closing the transaction and working with the Meebo team to create more ways for users to engage online.”
Meebo started off life as an IM chat program that featured interoperability with a host of other instant messaging programs. I remember using it years ago in place of the Yahoo chat program which used to cause my computer to crash. In December of 2008, Meebo introduced the Meebo Bar, which enabled webmasters to set up chat on their website for people to use to interact with each other. The Meebo Bar also provided social sharing tools and advertising, including games from advertisers.
Google is expanding into areas that we probably couldn’t have anticipated or guessed they might charge into only a few years ago, and it looks like they are being careful to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s along the way. A division of Circuit City developed video technologies in the late 90s that could be useful in today’s age of internet video rentals, including ways to restrict access of videos to people who rented them, and technology to help keep those videos from being pirated.
Last spring, it appears that those patents went up for sale. At the USPTO assignment database, Google was assigned the patents in an assignment executed on March 9, 2012, and recorded on April 20, 2012. No telling when Google actually purchased the patents, or what the terms of the deal were, but Google did announce last May that they would start offering movies for rent on the Android market, as well as making rental videos available on a YouTube Store in April.
Google introduced an entertainment hub they call Google Play this March, and you can rent videos there. The Android Market became part of Google Play when it launched.