Google Scoops Up IBM Patents

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Google ( GOOG) recently took another step to bolster its patent portfolio with the acquisition of more than 200 patents from IBM ( IBM).

The deal is the latest attempt by Google to beef up its patent trove in the wake of increased intellectual property litigation, particularly in the mobile space. Google has historically held a slimmer patent portfolio than many of its competitors, making its Android mobile system more vulnerable to litigation from companies like Apple ( AAPL) and Microsoft ( MSFT).

In response, the company purchased over 2,000 patents from Big Blue last summer. It also acquired 7,000 patents through its recent purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings ( MMI).

"Google probably feels it needs patents particularly in the wireless area to defend its customers and companies who manufacture phones from infringement," said Peter Toren, a partner at Shulman Rogers who specializes in intellectual property.

But many patents that Google acquired in this latest deal with IBM aren't related to mobile. Instead, they're focused on Web applications, data intellectual property and even social networking.

One patent, called "Using Semantic Networks To Develop A Social Network," says it "identifies other users with common interests." These interests could be determined "by calculating a ratio of the number of words in a content source to the time spent viewing the content," according to the patent description.

For example, if you were looking on a social network for a person knowledgeable about say, higher education, the technology could recommend someone for you to speak with even if that individual didn't necessarily list "higher education" as an interest. It works by analyzing the amount that an individual in your extended network spends discussing a certain topic online as well as how often it is read by others.

This technology could boost Google's position as it looks for ways to strengthen its Google Plus social network, said patent blogger Florian Mueller.

"If it's valuable it could really give Google leverage against Facebook," he said.

Google Plus recently topped 62 million users, according to analyst Paul Allen, and the network could reach 400 million members by the end of 2012.

Facebook, in turn, has over 800 million users.

"As competition heats up with Google Plus, patents related to social will be an important thing to have," said IDC analyst Will Stofega.

Google acquired the patents on Dec. 30 in a deal first reported by the blog SEO by the Sea.

-- Written by Olivia Oran in New York.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/Ozoran.

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