Internet search pioneer Lycos puts patents up for sale

Via Archive.Org
Via Archive.Org

Lycos, one of the Internet’s original search engines, still technically exists in a world that long ago moved on to the all-encompassing embrace of Google. But just barely.

Today, the online portal put up for sale a trove of patents covering search engines, online ads, and online games. The move comes as Lycos says it plans to release a new series of products that incorporate Internet-connected hardware, often called the “Internet of things.”

In a news release, Lycos said it was hoping to sell or license the patents “in an effort to foster a collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship with partners and industries.”

It’s not the first time that Lycos’s old patents have been repurposed. In 2012, Google lost a patent infringement lawsuit filed by a company that had purchased some former Lycos patents. Google got the judgment overturned on appeal last summer, but the Supreme Court is being asked to review the ruling.

Patent lawsuits are a topic of particularly intense debate in the technology industry because of the iterative nature of software development, in which new products and features are constantly rebuilt and refreshed on top of old concepts and ideas.

The biggest target of patent-law critics are patent trolls, companies that produce few actual products and exist mostly to sue others for violating the patents they’ve amassed. President Obama has personally called for reform to rein in trolls, but progress has been slow.

Lycos was once a Massachusetts success story. The company was founded in 1994 by Bob Davis, based on research spun out of Carnegie Mellon University.

Lycos grew to become one of the most prominent search sites on the Internet, and was sold at the height of the dot-com bubble to Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica for $5.4 billion. In 2010, Lycos was sold again, this time fetching $36 million from India-based Ybrant Digital.

Today, former Lycos founder Davis is an investor at venture capital firm Highland Capital Partners. In a 2012 Globe interview, Davis said he was unsure if he’d sell the company if given the opportunity to replay history.

“The company certainly lost a lot of focus after it was sold,” Davis said. “I would love to have seen the legacy of Lycos still stand tall. But ultimately our job was to create shareholder value.”