Snapchat maker reportedly spends $7.7 million to buy patent filing from Yo app entrepreneur

Snapchat app maker Snap Inc. has reportedly paid $7.7 million for the rights to a patent application from the entrepreneur behind the Yo app.

According to reports in GeekTime and TechCrunch, Snap earlier this month purchased the pending geolocation patent from Mobli, whose co-founder, Moshe Hegog, is known for launching a messaging app that only allows users to say “yo.”

The large sum for a single pending patent is unusual in the tech industry, where companies often make bulk purchases in which they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for each claim. But Snap may have targeted the specific application from the Israeli technology company because it's more encompassing than Snap’s similar patent application.

Snap declined to comment, as did Mobli’s patent attorneys. Federal records didn’t yet indicate a transfer of the application.

The technology in question is virtual overlays, including text and graphics, that can be affixed to smartphone photos and videos based on a user’s location. People at a basketball game could place a team’s logos on their photos, while folks strolling through Hollywood could get the option of putting a “Dolby Theatre” banner on their images. Snap allows companies to sponsor such overlays, calling them geofilter ads.

Buying intellectual property is a common strategy for Snap and its smartphone messaging peers, including Facebook and Twitter. Snap spent an estimated $9.5 million for 245 IBM patents and applications and an undisclosed sum for a small batch from Yahoo.

Mobli has struggled to get usage for its social media apps. The startup had occupied Snap’s first office in Venice for a couple of years before Snap recently took it back.

paresh.dave@latimes.com

Twitter: @peard33

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