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Yahoo Sues Facebook: “Dastardly” or “Business As Usual”?

Yahoo Sues Facebook: “Dastardly” or “Business As Usual”?

 

Yahoo filed a patent suit against Facebook at the start of this week, contending that “almost everything Facebook does..is based on something that Yahoo did first,” says Forbes. The suit alleges that nothing less than “Facebook’s entire social network model, which allows users to create profile to connect with persons and businesses, is based on Yahoo’s patented social networking technology.” Facebook’s targeting of ads to users based on their interests was also something Yahoo did first, according to the suit. Yahoo is seeking triple damages for this, as well as an injunction against the patents.

Is this lawsuit “business as usual“? An older, pioneering tech company claiming its due from one that’s grown so big and powerful it has filed a $5 billion IPO offering? Or just a “crock of s—” that is also “dastardly, opportunistic, desperate, and frankly anti-Internet,” as Tech Crunch puts it?

According to Forbes, Facebook’s response was “a mix of hurt feelings” as well as puzzlement; Facebook says it will fight the suit and has strongly denied that Yahoo has a case at all. Many have noted that Yahoo’s suit, coming at this particular time in the history of Facebook, is no surprise and was even expected by Mark Zuckerberg and company.

Far from being frivolous or mean-spirited, Peter S. Vogel, a partner and patent expert at Gardere Wynne Sewell, tell Forbes that Yahoo has “every right to go after Facebook this way.” Yahoo has done what is best from the perspective of its shareholders, timing its suit to when Facebook is “most vulnerable” and therefore most likely to settle. The “strategic use of patents,” of intellectual property resources, has become another weapon in a tech company’s arsenal just as much as “crafty management of cash or judicious use of human resources.” It would not be surprising if Yahoo may have plans to assert its patent rights to other tech companies in the future.

Apple and Samsung are currently embroiled in a complicated patent battle (a German court just suspended a trial over slide-to-unlock technology pending the outcome of a second suit in March). According to Vogel, rather than going to trial, companies tend to favor settling by licensing the technology, or cross licensing. Whether or not Yahoo might win such remains to be seen. Most of the patents that Yahoo is suing Facebook over are “vague concepts that underly a wide variety of web services,” says Tech Crunch. One exception is Patent 7406501, which is for integrated communication between email and instant message users; this patent is “relatively specific,” “not widely used,” actually seems to have been infringed upon by Facebook and is non-essential to Facebook and social networking.

Does Yahoo have a case against Facebook? Or this a case of an older tech company having sour grapes with a younger one that is the current Internet darling?

 

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45 comments

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12:56PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

This is the "I invented everything" school of business. Expect a summons soon when Yahoo sues you because they invented breathing.

8:35AM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

that is all the world needs is anothe law suit. they are all blood sucking theving monsters that only want to exploit what we do for their proffit.

7:32AM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Think NAVIGATOR...
Think WINDOWS...

5:05PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

These yahoos should have a face-off on the interwebs by using angry birds to scare each other with twitters...or something like that.

5:04PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

I have used Yahoo for many years and never knew it had any features anything like FB. The biggest thing I knew about Yahoo was it had a search engine and groups as well as email. They do a crappy job on email and the groups are always complaining about how Yahoo has messed up again, and it goes on for days at a time. Yahoo either loses mail, double or triple sends, blocks certain IPs without any reason or blocks you account without reason. Since ATT took over BellSouth we have had the worst internet in hisotry and they sold it to Yahoo claiming Yahoo was so much better at it than they were. It all boiled down to money and Yahoo has had their email access breached so many times it isn't funny.

It it were not for the groups I would love to see them disappear.

This is obviously Yahoo trying to attach someone because they are in their death throws. I have problems with Google also but at least they do make efforts to secure their information that Yahoo doesn't.

4:16PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

Eh these big tech companies always seem to be launching frivolous lawsuits at each other. They really need to change patent laws so "vague concepts" can't be patented.

"Patent Trolls" are becoming a serious problem these days though.

My friend who owns a small retail website she runs from home, got a letter from some company called Kelora claiming to own a patent on some aspect of search boxes, and they were demanding a $40k license fee. Which about as much as she makes in a year. Apparently the company is sending letters to thousands of websites, and launching lawsuits against some of the big companies like Ebay too. They target small businesses, who can't afford lawyers to help fund their lawsuits against the bigger companies. It can cost $10's of thousands just to hire a patent lawyer respond to a patent infringement letter. Most people just don't have that kind of money lying around.

http://www.internetretailer.com/2012/01/20/patent-battles-heat-2

3:55PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

go yahoo!

2:33PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

Yahoo is scrambling to stay alive in a market which has passed it by; Facebook is the new kid on the block and is on the verge of taking over the virtual universe. This is nothing more than Yahoo's trying desperately to stay alive in the face of better, faster, newer, more customer-focused offerings by a company that read the market more accurately than Yahoo ever did.

Whining and sour-grapes, and completely non-valid to begin with!!! RIP, Yahoo, your time has PASSED!

1:47PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

Honestly this looks like a sad and desperate attempt to launder money from a company that is profiting more than theirs! If there was a serious issue than they would have gone after Myspace who essentially did it first! The fact that they didn't just shows that they are only after the profits that facebook has gained rather than wanting to sue for supposed mocking their network. On all accounts this is pathetic.

1:14PM PDT on Mar 18, 2012

I agree with you John R. It's about time!
I left yahoo for gmail a few years ago and am very pleased with the change. Spam on yahoo and hotmail is out of control.
Facebook doesn't interest me in the slightest. It's an invasion of privacy and nothing else even though people willingly put their info out there.

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