Google is possibly most well known for the patenting of an algorithm that sorted and ordered search results based upon a metric known as PageRank, named after Google Co-Founder Lawrence Page, while he was a student at Stanford University. Yahoo started as a Web Directory, which became a Search Engine, and the patent it might be most well known for is one that it purchased from Overture (Originally Goto.com), and successfully sued Google with (winning a settlement out of the litigation) which describes paid search. That patent appears to have been assigned by Yahoo, along with many other patents last month.
A couple of weeks ago, an article on Yahoo’s patent portfolio ran and provided some insights into what value those patents might hold. The article, Yahoo Has a Strong Patent Portfolio, But Reported Valuation is Too High gives us some ideas regarding how much the Search Engine’s patents might be worth (4 Billion?), and what they’ve been doing with them. Has Yahoo sold a good amount of those patents not much less than a week after that article? We don’t know for certain. They may have to one of the remaining bidders for the company: Exclusive: Yahoo’s bidder shortlist points to cash deal -sources.
On April 18th, 2016 an assignment was recorded at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on a transaction that appears to have been executed on April 18th, 2016 involving the assignment of 2648 patents from Yahoo! Inc. to Excalibur IP, LLC. The name may be made up to hold the patents temporarily. The address that the assignment indicates is Excalibur’s is “701 FIRST AVENUE SUNNYVALE, CALIFORNIA UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 94089”. A search for that address points to the headquarters of Yahoo! as we see in the knowledge panel below, so the actual purchaser appears unknown.
The transaction includes a patent that was at the heart of litigation between Yahoo! and Google, after Yahoo! had purchased Overture, which had patented Paid search, and Yahoo! sued Google for adopting a paid search model that was said to be similar. In August of 2004, Yahoo! and Google settled the case between them. In the article Yahoo! and Google Resolve Disputes, we are told about the settlement between the two companies:
“Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Google will take a license to U.S. Patent No. 6,269,361 and several related patents, held by Yahoo!â€™s wholly-owned subsidiary, Overture, and Yahoo! dismissed its patent lawsuit against Google. The two parties have also resolved a dispute regarding shares issuable to Yahoo! according to a warrant to purchase Google shares in connection with a 2000 services agreement.”
The patent is:
System and Method For Influencing a Position on a Search Result List Generated by a Computer Network Search Engine
Inventors: Thomas A. Soulanille, James B. Gallinatti JR., DARREN J. DAVIS, MATTHEW DERER, JOHANN GARCIA, LARRY GRECO, TOD E. KURT, THOMAS KWONG, JONATHAN C. LEE, KA LUK LEE, PRESTON PFARNER, STEVE SKOVRAN
US Patent 6269361
Filed: May 28, 1999
Granted: Jul 31, 2001
We don’t know what the financial terms of this transaction might be, or who the ultimate parties may be as well. The USPTO site search tells us that there are 2179 granted Yahoo! patents listed there and there are 3151 pending Yahoo! patent applications. In the assignment, in addition to many patents involving paid search, there is also a number that involves web search, semantic search, image search, and a wide range of software applications. Have they been transferred to a new owner already, or are they now being held by a holding company? The patent behind the paid search is included in that patent portfolio. We will see who it ends up going to.
Added June 22, 2016, It appears that these patents have been reassigned to Yahoo! in an assignment recorded on May 31, and executed on June 1, 2016. Yahoo! has not been sold yet, but rumors have it that it will be within a couple of weeks.