Facebook has been on a buying spree again -- hot on the heels of the $1bn Instagram purchase it is now busy acquiring patents in an attempt to protect itself from future law suits.

It is buying a impressive 650 patents covering various web technologies from Microsoft for $550m!!  Facebook had attempted to purchase these only two weeks ago from AOL who had put them on the market -- the patents cover a range of technologies developed by Netscape some years ago.

Microsoft won the bidding war but immediately  put a range of the 920 patents on the market again.  Facebook now own 650 of these, however in a clever move Microsoft have brokered a deal granting themselves a license to these patents.  In addition Facebook will gain licensing to the remainder of the patents from the full 920.   Facebook also bought 750 patents from IBM in March for an unknown amount.

Yahoo! currently have an outstanding patent lawsuit with Facebook covering advertising, privacy controls, news feeds and messaging services.

It would appear that intellectual property patents are not necessarily there to protect developers, but actually now a currency in their own right.

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