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Facebook Sued By Yahoo Over Patents On Website Functions

Publication Date: 
March 13, 2012
San Francisco Chronicle
Joel Rosenblatt and Brian Womack

Professor Mark Lemley spoke with Joel Rosenblatt and Brian Womack of the San Francisco Chronicle on the recent patent lawsuit Yahoo! filed against Facebook and how "it's not a good sign for them as a technology company."

Facebook Inc. was accused in a lawsuit by Yahoo! Inc. of infringing patents covering functions critical to websites, including Internet advertising, information sharing and privacy.

In a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in San Jose, California, Yahoo asked for an order barring Facebook from infringing the 10 patents and for triple damages. The patents cover tasks required to "build a successful website," such as information customization, social networking and messaging, according to the complaint.


"Even technology companies who acquire their patents for purely defensive purposes may change their mind as they do less well in the marketplace," Mark Lemley, a Stanford Law School professor who isn't involved in the case, said in an e-mail. "Yahoo! isn't a patent troll, but they are the latest example of a company that sues for patent infringement in hopes of supplementing a failing revenue base."


Stanford's Lemley said data he collected shows that the number of patent suits against a company rises around the time of its IPO.


"In the short run, Yahoo! may stand to make money by suing Facebook," Lemley said. "But in the long run it's not a good sign for them as a technology company."