How AOL’s Patent Sale Could Impact Its Jobs

AOLAOL’s $1 billion+ sale of 800 patents to Microsoft will certainly give the company more cash — and may even stem the layoff of more employees, at least for a while.

Can patents be linked to layoffs? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

The move is AOL’s way of avoiding patent disputes like the one embroiling Yahoo and Facebook, and allows the company to secure its “strategy to create long-term shareholder value.” AOL kept 300 patents related to “advertising, search, content generation/management, social networking, mapping, multimedia/streaming, and security among others.” This deal clearly made some shareholders happy, driving up AOL’s stock price by 43 percent.

The Impact on Jobs

Will all this be enough to stop job losses? Let’s see.

First of all, AOL employees should take a deep breath and relax, because the company has some money, now — and so, we can assume, some breathing room.

Second, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong says the sale “unlocks current dollar value for our shareholders and enables AOL to continue to aggressively execute on our strategy to create long-term shareholder value.” Put another way, Armstrong thinks the company can focus on the future, though he’ll have to make some wise new investments and work to keep the current ones profitable.

On the flip side, everyone knows that AOL’s gotten into trouble when it’s dug in too deep and lost key people. The most famous case came when the editors of TechCrunch and Engadget — Michael Arrington and Josh Topolsky — departed because of management and content strategy differences. AOL had wanted to use two of the most famous tech websites around to serve ads first, while their popular editors demanded editorial independence, journalism evolution and entertainment.

The bottom line: Jobs at AOL may be more secure for a while while management sorts out some of its near-term problems. But the company still faces huge competition — keep an eye on the new Yahoo — so how things turn out for its workforce is anyone’s guess.

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