New Facebook patents cover IM, search

The 650 patents that Facebook acquired from Microsoft (s msft) are “web-related” said a source with knowledge of the deal and listed some specific examples. The source said the portfolio includes patents related to: instant-messaging, e-commerce, LTE, mobile, handsets, search and advertising.

The patents originally belonged to AOL (s aol) and were purchased by Microsoft earlier this month. Microsoft in turn sold 70 percent of the patents to Facebook for $550 million cash. The source would not comment on the strategic reasons for the deal.

Given the broad range of patents in question, Facebook may have acquired them simply to protect itself from further suits like the one Yahoo (s yhoo) filed against it earlier this year. Newer firms typically do not focus on patents which can make them vulnerable to lawsuits from established companies.

Google, (s goog) for instance, made little effort to build up its patent portfolio but then found itself facing a mounting series of lawsuits. After a consortium of rivals out-bid it for bankrupt Nortel’s patent portfolio, Google decided to purchase Motorola Mobility and its patents for an eye-popping $12 billion last summer.

Facebook may be attempting to stockpile early before it comes under more serious threats. The Microsoft deal is the company’s second major patent acquisition.