Update: In a brief statement to the AFP, a Facebook spokesperson said "I can confirm that there was a purchase but I don't have any other details to share." Reading between the lines, that's likely a confirmation that Facebook has indeed acquired some patents from IBM, but IBM wouldn't comment and the import of the patents — specifically whether they have any bearing on Yahoo's litigation — remains unclear (Original story follows).

According to Bloomberg, Facebook has acquired 750 patents from IBM — providing coverage for various "software and networking" technologies. In the world of robust patent portfolios, 750 patents is a relatively small number, but we need to keep in mind that Facebook currently owns less than 60 US patents. That's a trivial number for a minor player in the industry; it could be devastating if you're a huge and profitable company like Facebook. It's like walking around with money hanging out of your pocket and a target on your back. The only way to remedy that problem in the short term is to buy some more patents.

The timing of this patent deal has also raised some eyebrows. Yahoo filed suit against Facebook just last week — alleging that the social networking giant infringed ten different patents relating to webpage advertising and user interaction on a network. With that background in mind, it's tempting to assume Facebook is setting itself up for a strong countersuit against Yahoo. While that could happen, there's really no reason to assume Facebook is getting the kind of patents it would likely need to wage a formidable war against Yahoo.

Remember, IBM sold Google over 2,000 patents a few months back and there's no sign yet that those patents have provided Google or Android OEMs with any real litigation value. Moreover, strong patents are hard to come by, so it's unlikely IBM and Facebook had enough time to substantively sift through IBM's mammoth portfolio to gather up those patents best suited for use against Yahoo. It's much more likely that Facebook is simply beginning the long and gradual haul of growing its own portfolio — and for that purpose, it's a start.