South Florida readers may remember that a month or two ago, we wrote about how the struggling Eastman Kodak Co. was trying to sell off its patent portfolio to raise some much-needed cash. That may be a move that will become more common thanks to two factors: first, companies continue to struggle in our lackluster economy and so are looking for new ways to raise money; and second, patents are becoming ever more valuable as the technology they protect increases in worth.

The recent announcement that America Online will sell over 800 patents to Microsoft for $1.1 billion underscores that observation. America Online, better known as AOL, has been floundering for years and Microsoft has been waging war with its rivals Google and Apple in an attempt to secure a portion of the lucrative market for smartphones, tablets and social media sphere.

Neither Microsoft nor AOL has said exactly which patents Microsoft has purchased or what they protect.

AOL is not the only “elder statesman” of the technology community to start putting its patents to work. Yahoo recently sued Facebook for patent infringement; a former employee later accused Yahoo of “weaponizing” its patents and suing Facebook just before its IPO in the hopes of getting “go-away” money. (Yahoo denied the former employee’s claim).

These two stories show once again that patents are among the most valuable assets a business owner can possess. Not only are they crucial as a means of protecting part of what makes your business succeed, they also double as a potentially lucrative resource that is good to have in case of a rainy day.

Source: The Washington Post, “AOL sells patents to Microsoft in $1.1 billion deal,” Hayley Tsukayama, April 9, 2012