MediaFile

Boohoo for Yahoo

Yahoo is taking on Facebook — but it’s not vying for the hearts and minds of the Internet cool kids. It’s for licensing fees over some patents. This is not how it was supposed to be.

No, I’m not naive. But I am a bit of a romantic. Thing is, I remember when Yahoo was an upstart with two crazy awkward college kids who came up with something that the search giants of the time — Lycos and Alta Vista — could not withstand. Yahoo’s scrappiness was part of a long tradition of Silicon Valley startups that came before (and would come after). Like Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, the elder statesmen of Silicon Valley who began their iconic company in a now iconic garage, Jerry Yang and David Filo started with nothing but an idea in a dorm room and changed everything. Yahoo’s blazing success in search and (the now-quaint notion of) cataloging the Web begs comparison to two other crazy awkward college kids who started a search engine. That search engine, of course, killed Yahoo. It had an equally kooky name — Google.

Now Yahoo, as part of its effort remake itself after a decade of decline, is said to be wielding a new weapon: a patent trove. The stellar DealBook blog of the New York Times, which first reported this story, couldn’t get anyone to disclose the particulars, but it quotes “people briefed on the matter” as saying Yahoo is threatening lawsuits and is in the midst of negotiations with a pretty big fish. “Yahoo is seeking to force Facebook into licensing 10 to 20 patents over technologies that include advertising, the personalization of Web sites, social networking and messaging,” DealBook reports.

Oh, how the mighty have… matured, to be charitable. Yahoo was crazy disruptive before “disruptive” was even digerati shorthand for “cool.” It was so popular that Reuters — yes, this Reuters — took a sizable stake in the young company. The American executive who made this happen, Andy Nibley, delighted in telling the story of how the very British Reuters board received the news he was investing millions in a company named “Yahoo!”

For years the two companies closely partnered to create wicked revolutionary news services. I know this because I was the lead guy on the Reuters editorial side in those heady days, collaborating with some daring executives and talented engineers at Yahoo’s Mountain View mecca.

Tech wrap: PayPal darling takes Yahoo reigns

Yahoo named PayPal President Scott Thompson CEO as the company plows ahead with a strategic review in which discussions have included the possibility of being sold, taken private or broken up. Thompson, a former Visa payments software platform designer, joins the company five months after the firing of previous CEO Carol Bartz.

Thompson has been credited with driving growth at eBay’s online payments division. After the Yahoo appointment, some questioned if he could replicate his success as CEO of Yahoo. ”The risk element is that his background was in payments. And this is not a payment company, it’s a marketing, technology company,” said Lawrence Haverty, a fund manager with GAMCO investors, which owns Yahoo shares.

Eastman Kodak is working on a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing that could be filed as soon as this month if it cannot sell its digital patents, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. The newspaper said Kodak is in talks with lenders to secure about $1 billion in debtor-in possession financing to sustain it through any bankruptcy proceedings.

Tech wrap: U.S. spies Chinese and Russian cyber spies

China and Russia are using cyber espionage to steal U.S. trade and technology secrets to bolster their own economic development, which poses a threat to U.S. prosperity and security, a U.S. intelligence report titled “Foreign Spies Stealing U.S. Economic Secrets in Cyberspace,” said. Intelligence services, private companies, academic institutions and citizens of dozens of countries target the United States, the report said. But it only named China and Russia. “Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage,” the report said.

Online retailer Amazon.com added library to the  list of services it offers. Kindle tablet owners with the Prime membership can choose from thousands of books to borrow for free on a Kindle device, including more than 100 current and former New York Times bestsellers, as frequently as a book a month, the company said. Amazon will initially offer slightly more than 5,000 titles in the library, including more than 100 current and former national bestsellers, such as Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

Eastman Kodak warned that it must raise $500 million in new debt or complete a multibillion dollar patent sale to survive the next 12 months. The photography company also posted dismal third-quarter results, with cash holdings down 10 percent from the second quarter, and it projected deeper losses this year as new printers and digital cameras failed to gain traction. Kodak hired investment bank Lazard in July to help it sell more than 1,100 digital imaging patents, which analysts have estimated could be worth as much as $2 billion to $3 billion.