Now Facebook is suing Yahoo! over patent infringements

4 Apr 2012

Facebook has replied to Yahoo!’s patent suit with a suit of its own alleging Yahoo! ripped off its content optimisation and photo-sharing technologies. The move comes as Yahoo! is preparing to lay off thousands of employees as part of a painful restructure.

Yahoo! launched its patent-heavy lawsuit against Facebook at a time when the social network is preparing to go public as part of a US$5bn IPO, so I guess neither side has sensitivities about timing.

“From the outset, we said we would defend ourselves vigorously against Yahoo!’s lawsuit, and today we filed our answer, as well as counter claims against Yahoo! for infringing 10 of Facebook’s patents,” Ted Ullyot, general counsel of Facebook, said in a statement.

“While we are asserting patent claims of our own, we do so in response to Yahoo!’s short-sighted decision to attack one of its partners and prioritise litigation over innovation.”

In its lawsuit against Facebook, Yahoo! alleges that Facebook infringed 10 patents, including privacy, customisation, messaging, social networking, advertising and news feed.

And now, in Facebook’s response to the Yahoo! lawsuit, Facebook says its patents are infringed on Yahoo!’s home page and advertising across its various sites, such as finance, sports and shopping.

“We have only just received Facebook’s answer and counterclaims, but on their face we believe they are without merit and nothing more than a cynical attempt to distract from the weakness of its defence,” Yahoo! said.

“As we have made clear from the outset, the unauthorised use of our patented technology is unacceptable and must be resolved appropriately. Other leading companies license these technologies, and Facebook must do the same or change the way it operates.

“We have proposed that Facebook join us in discussions to resolve the matter, but our overtures have been rejected. As a result, we are prepared to continue to seek redress through the courts,” Yahoo! said in a statement.

Beginning of the end of bizarre Silicon Valley patents culture, or end of the beginning?

The entire patents lawsuit culture in Silicon Valley has spiralled out of control, typified by the myriad of lawsuits between Apple and Samsung in a dozen countries.

But they say that sometimes what it takes to stop a fire is for another fire to burn the other out – perhaps the Facebook versus Yahoo! legal battle might be that fire that is needed.

Either way, neither lawsuit can be good for the companies at this time. Facebook is mere weeks from its eagerly awaited IPO and Yahoo! will tomorrow announce a painful, but necessary restructure that could see major job losses.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years