Can Facebook and Comcast Save Yahoo?
Yahoo! couldn't succeed as the world's number-one search engine and e-mail provider. Now the company is taking a different path to success.
Instead of breaking new ground with fresh ideas, Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) has been joining forces with other enterprises, including ABC News and Fandango, a movie ticketing website that's owned by Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA). Yahoo! has also decided to stand up for itself and sue Facebook for infringing on a handful of patents, causing many in the media (none of which are lawyers) to refer to the company as a “patent troll.”
Is Yahoo! in the wrong, or is Facebook guilty as charged? That has yet to be determined. But one analyst, Trip Chowdhry (the Managing Director of Equity Research at Global Equities Research), thinks that Yahoo! has made the right decision. “The company has to protect its intellectual [property],” Chowdhry told Benzinga this month. “If you create something, it's very easy for [someone else] to copy. Think about it – Yahoo! is a pioneer of [intellectual property]. These people have defined the industry, and the latecomers like Facebook come and copy 10 years of innovation at Yahoo! and take a free ride. It's just not right.”
Even Yahoo! critics like TechCrunch have come around and admitted that the company might actually have a case – maybe not for all of its patent claims, but at least for one. This could be a huge problem for Facebook, which is expected to settle out of court to prevent any issues relating to its forthcoming IPO.
By settling with Facebook, Yahoo! could potentially earn billions in penalties and/or a licensing deal that could provide additional revenue for several years to come. Some have speculated that Facebook could just buy the patents from Yahoo!, which is certainly a possibility. But the company could make so much more money if it licenses the patents to Facebook instead.
What if Facebook decides to stand its ground and fight to the end, regardless of any impact it might have on its initial public offering? In that case, Yahoo! might not get a dime. But it would likely waste a small fortune on legal fees.
It is not yet known if Yahoo! has managed to profit from the aforementioned ABC News deal. However, the Fandango deal should be quite lucrative for the firm, as it gives Yahoo! Movies access to 20,000+ movie screens across the United States. In exchange, Fandango can sell its movie ticketing services to Yahoo! Movie's 30 million members, who will no doubt be subject to a steady stream of agonizing advertisements featuring puppets and other annoyances.
Going forward, Yahoo! is likely to continue making deals and building alliances with other corporations. And if the Facebook lawsuit proves to be beneficial, Yahoo! will likely seek out other firms that have infringed on its patents.
For the time being, this might be enough to keep the company from falling too far below its rivals. In the future, however, Yahoo! needs to be a bit more creative. Otherwise it won't have another round of patents for others to infringe on, which would limit its ability to file additional lawsuits.
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