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Timothy B. Lee

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Posted at 12:42 PM ET, 04/09/2012

The Circuit: AOL-Microsoft patent deal, AT&T heads off strike for now, Grassley to see LightSquared documents

AOL sells patents to Microsoft:America Online announced Monday that it has sealed a $1.1 billion deal with Microsoft for more than 800 patents. According to a news release announcing the deal, the companies entered into a non-exclusive license for the patents, following an auction.

The companies did not say which patents are part of the deal, but a technology company as old as AOL certainly has patents that could prove useful for Microsoft as patent lawsuits continue to rage between some of the industry’s largest companies.

“This is a valuable portfolio that we have been following for years and analyzing in detail for several months,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel and executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs, said in the release.

AT&T heads off strike: AT&T has thus far avoided a strike that had the potential to affect 40,000 workers, after workers agreed to continue showing up to their jobs without a contract.

According to a statement on the Communications Workers of America Web site, AT&T workers across the country “will continue to report to work for now, although that can change at any time.”

At issue are changes to health care and job protection clauses, the Associated Press reported.

LightSquared documents: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has had the opportunity to look at documents that detail the Federal Communications Commission’s discussions with LightSquared, a move that could eventually end the senator’s block on FCC nominees Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel.

The FCC confirmed last month that it had provided documents about LightSquared to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The agency had previously declined to share the information with Grassley, saying his committee does not have jurisdiction over the agency.

In a statement Monday, Grassley said that he will continue the hold for the time being, until the FCC releases further document.

“According to the FCC, the documents all have been previously released through the Freedom of Information Act,” Grassley’s office said in a statement. “Therefore, Senator Grassley’s hold on the FCC nominees will continue until the FCC demonstrates its commitment to comply with the House committee’s request and produce new, internal documents.

Commerce recovering from blackout: Employees at the Commerce Department have been working in the “bureaucratic Dark Ages” for 80 days, The Washington Post reported, after an infiltration that put the entire department’s computer network at risk.

The Commerce department has yet to find the hackers that infiltrated its systems, and has turned to fax machines, landlines and the U.S. Postal Service to conduct its normal business.

A Web site for the Commerce department was restored last week, the report said, and some employees have said they’re enjoying the increased human interaction.

Consumer group urges block on e-reader pricing: The Consumer Federation of America has asked the Senate committee on antitrust to look into possible antitrust issues surrounding the deal between Apple and five book publishers.

Antitrust officials in the U.S. and in Europe are already looking into allegations that the deal Apple has struck with publishers to provide electronic versions of books amounts to price-fixing. In the letter, the CFA said that it believes these deals are “collusive” and urged the committee to address the issue while the e-book industry is young.

“The e-book market is early in its development and the abuse will grow, if it is not stopped immediately,” said CFA director of research Mark Cooper in a release.

By  |  12:42 PM ET, 04/09/2012

 
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