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Apple Inc. (AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) & Google Inc (GOOG): Strength In Patents

The patent race is not based solely on acquisitions. Like Apple, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) has dramatically increased its own patent production in recent years and is second to Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) on the 2010 Communication/Internet Services scorecard. In 2011, Google was granted 283 U.S. utility patents, compared to only 28 in 2008.

Recently, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) have joined forces to bid on Eastman Kodak’s patent portfolio. The deal has been approved by a judge, according to Bloomberg. Eastman Kodak put its patents up for sale as part of a bankruptcy filing. According to reports, Apple and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) had formed their own consortium to acquire the patents and bid around $150 million to $250 million for them. However, Kodak, which had hoped to raise more than $2 billion from the sale, announced earlier this week that it was delaying the announcement of a winner. In a recent statement to CNET, the company added that it might not even sell the patents at all.

Microsoft fights back

However, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) in particular has been taking swipes at Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) through targeting handset makers that use Android – it’s built on the Linux Kernel, which supposedly infringes multiple patents owned by Microsoft. As such, companies such as HTC – which uses Android on many of its handsets – must pay Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) for each handset it sells with that operating system installed.

This is a key example of how patents can be used as leverage for competitive advantage. Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is hedging Google’s growth, forcing Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) to work around the limitations either through patents of its own, or another line of application.

Companies with patents are not the only way investors can score in the patent game. Investors also have the option of buying companies that help other companies manage and monetize their patents. As technology booms, there will be no shortage of individuals and companies seeking IP rights to their own inventions. Thus, a company that seeks to provide this continuing and growing demand would be beneficial to look into. One of these companies, Marathon Patent Group (MARA), has developed strategies that allow its clients to maximize the value of IP assets through a wide range of services. Inventors and patent owners can monetize patent portfolios through IP licensing campaigns, idea creation, development, and enforcement. In other words, Marathon takes businesses and individuals from start to finish in the IP process.

Marathon goes in at ground level. Assisting in development and commercialization of a license, it creates a mutually beneficial relationship with all its clients. Moreover, these partnering opportunities create an ongoing relationship that includes patent analysis and watchful tracking of patent implementation.

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