Facebook’s fortune has fluctuated wildly over the last few months.
The share price has plummeted and the company has been getting more than its fair share of criticism from competitors, disgruntled users and the media. Mark Zuckerberg probably thought he’d managed to see out the storm, and that his company was now sailing towards calmer waters. How wrong can you be? Facebook is heading for another iceberg, and that’s the threat of more legal action. Facebook is now facing the prospect of legal action over its use of the “like” button and other features of the social network.
The social media giant is being sued by a patent-holding company, Rembrandt Social Media, who purchased the patents from the estate of Dutch programmer, Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer, after his death in 2004. Rembrandt Social Media said that Facebook’s success could be largely attributed to the illegal use of two of Mr Van Der Meer’s patents. Facebook had not sought permission to use either of these two patents. Facebook, unsurprisingly, has not made any comment as yet and seems determined to remain tight-lipped. Rembrandt Social Media has now filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Virginia, USA.
Rembrandt owns the patents for technologies which Me Van Der Meer used to build his fledgling social network, Surfbook.
It acquired these patents after his death in 2004. Mr Van Der Meer was granted the patents in 1998, five years before Facebook first appeared. Surfbook was a social diary that allowed people to share information with friends and family and approve some data using a “like” button, according to legal papers filed by Fish and Richardson.
These papers also claim that Facebook is aware of these patents as it has cited them in its own applications to patent some social networking technologies. In fairness, it must be sad that Facebook are not alone in this. Legal papers have also been served on another well-known social media company Add This for the illegal use of patented technologies.
Lawyer, Tom Melsheimer, of legal firm Fish and Richardson, who are representing the patent holder, Rembrandt had this to say:
“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.”