Yahoo's Move to Sue Facebook Enrages Tech Scene

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On Monday, Yahoo made a move that raised a lot of eyebrows and tempers in Silicon Valley: It filed a lawsuit against Facebook for patent infringement. Yes, you read that right. In the words of Kara Swisher of All Things D, Yahoo's new motto is "If you can't beat 'em — and it can't — sue 'em."

There have been talks about Yahoo starting patent wars with Facebook for weeks now, so the social media giant probably saw it coming.

Apparently, the former Internet heavyweight has over 1000 patents under its sleeve, and it's using 10 of them to sue the social network. In a 19-page lawsuit filed on Monday in San Jose California, Yahoo details 10 counts in which Facebook has violated its patents.

According to Wired, in its lawsuit, Yahoo is seeking "triple damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on those damages, all court costs, and — ka-boom — that Facebook be 'immediately, preliminarily, and permanently enjoined from further infringement of the patents-in-suit.'"

Check out the list below and read about the 10 patents that Facebook is supposedly in violation of.

Infringement of the '566, '111, and '599 patents entitled "Method and System for Optimum Placement of Advertisements on a Webpage" – These are separate patents, but they're all basically meant to protect the idea of placing and arranging ads based on what the user has done in the past. According to Yahoo's complaint, Facebook's Ads violate these patents.

Infringement of the '861 patent entitled "System and Method to Determine the Validity of an Interaction on a Network" – This one is about using visitor data to determine spam or fake users. Facebook is obviously using a number of methods to classify fake or spammy accounts, and Yahoo intends to gain from it.

Infringement of the '590 patent entitled "Method and System for Customizing Views of Information Associated with a Social Network User" – This is about the use of certain criteria to determine what to display on a page. Examples of these criteria include a user's relationship with the viewer, activities like dating, employment, hobbies, etc. Facebook enables users to control what their network sees, and Yahoo claims that Facebook's privacy controls are in violation of this patent.

Infringement of the '935 patent entitled "Control for Enabling a User To Preview Display of Selected Content Based on Another User's Authorization Level" – Once again, this is geared towards Facebook's privacy controls that allow users to show specific content to selected groups of people.

Infringement of the '509 patent entitled "Online Playback System with Community Bias" – This patent is about the idea of entertaining users "according to a community having similar tastes." According to Yahoo, the Facebook News Feed violates this.

Infringement of the '227 patent entitled "Dynamic Page Generator" – Simply put, this patent protects the idea of having customized pages. Yahoo's complaint states that Faceboook's News Feed and Wall violate this patent, obviously because both features allow users to fully personalize these pages.

Infringement of '648 patent entitled "World Modeling Using a Relationship Network with Communication Channels to Entities" – This patent protects the idea of having online entity models (like groups) based on real world models. It also protects the idea of "enabling users to easily share their experiences and opinions of the corresponding real-world entity." According to Yahoo, Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups violate this.

Infringement of the '501 patent entitled "System and Method for Instant Messaging Using an E-Mail Protocol – According to Yahoo's complaint, Facebook Messages violates this patent.

The Tech Scene is Outraged—and For Good Reason

When the news broke about Yahoo starting this patent war with Facebook, numerous tech and social media pundits wasted no time in expressing their disapproval. Andy Baio of Wired called the move "an attack on invention and the hacker ethic", while Matt Rosoff of Business Insider called the lawsuit "lame."

It doesn't stop there. Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson, principal of Union Square said that "The patents that Yahoo! is suing Facebook over are a crock of shit", and even adds that the former Internet giant "has broken ranks and crossed the unspoken line which is that web companies don't sue each other over their bogus patent portfolios."

Meanwhile, Kara Swisher of All Things D wrote that Yahoo was the "first but worst", meaning that while Yahoo may have been first to patent the technologies mentioned above, they were the worst in using them.

Yep, the tech scene sure is outraged, and it's not solely because pundits love Facebook. These bloggers and experts are mad because Yahoo decided to gain money or "beat" Facebook using patents, instead of being truly innovative. In other words, instead of coming with new and original ideas, Yahoo decided to just let its lawyers do the work.

Patents are meant to protect ideas, not as a tactic for attack. Unfortunately, Yahoo seems to have forgotten that.

Image credit: cdcoppola on Flickr

About the author
Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio
Francesca is the founder of Credible Copywriting and has written for several organizations, including Internet start-ups, advertising agencies, and small businesses, just to name a few. She has helped individuals and entities put their names and messages out there by producing quality works in the form of articles, web content, video scripts, and more. Touch base with her at: or visit her website at: - Read more stories from .
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