On the off chance you are reading this from a cave or didn’t see the film “The Social Network,” lawsuits are nothing new for the people at Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB). The newest of these litigious efforts against the Zuckerberg machine involves their “like” button. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that those who decide to “like” their own banal status updates will face a team of lawyers. It also, once again unfortunately, will not mean that those who comment on others’ posts in indecipherable “text speak”, or just plain bad grammar and then “like” their own drivel will be forced to answer to a jury of their peers.
No, in this case, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) may have to answer to its use of a couple of patented technologies held by, Rembrandt Social Media, a (fittingly) patent holding company. The company filed the suit in a Virgina federal court this morning and alleges that Facebook has been using patents developed by this mouthful of a dead man, Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer, since it’s inception.
“We believe Rembrandt’s patents represent an important foundation of social media as we know it, and we expect a judge and jury to reach the same conclusion based on the evidence,” said lawyer Tom Melsheimer from legal firm Fish and Richardson.
Mr. van Der Meer was granted these patents in 1998, five years before the emergence of Facebook, and six years before his death. Mr. van Der Meer anticipated using these patents on his unsuccessful and virtually unknown social media platform Surfbook. While the suit includes two alleged patent infringements it is van Der Meer’s patents that allows the culling of third-party information to his online diary (SurfBook) that resembles Facebook’s “like” button.
Facebook “bears a remarkable resemblance, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation, to the personal web page diary that Van Der Meer had invented years earlier”, suggests today’s claim.
It should be noted, then quickly forgotten, that a company named AddThis, was also listed in the lawsuit. Who or what is this company? I don’t know either.
“Facebook and AddThis are using the ideas disclosed in Jos’ patents without permission or payment. Through this litigation, Rembrandt Social Media hopes to recover payment for the unauthorized usage of patents by Facebook and AddThis,” said Rembrandt chairman Paul Schneck.
While Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has yet to comment on the suit, there will certainly be suggestions that Rembrandt is simply a “patent troll.” A company set up for the sole purpose of gathering royalties.
The company adamantly denied this in a press conference held under a bridge in Vicksburg, VA this afternoon.