Facebook Returns Fire, Files Patent Suit Against Yahoo

Posted by · April 3, 2012 4:04 pm

Yahoo! headquartersYou know what they say: Turnabout is fair play. After being sued by Yahoo for violating ten rather broad patents, Facebook is striking back with a patent lawsuit of its own against the former internet giant. Citing ten of its own software patents, the Facebook counterclaim (PDF) asserts an equally sweeping claim over basic web functions, including search, news feeds, photo tagging, and advertising.

Despite being the instigator of this rapidly escalating legal battle, for Yahoo, this suit could not come at a more inopportune time. Expected to announce deep cuts to its payroll this week, the company is already in a desperate position as it is. After watching helplessly as a seemingly promising 2010 deal with Facebook effectively unraveled, Yahoo has since been faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of rediscovering and clearly defining its once-ubiquitous identity. The last thing Yahoo needs is something like this to accelerate the evaporation of its swiftly diminishing assets.

For Facebook, who, on the opposite end of the spectrum from Yahoo, is preparing for a much anticipated initial public offering in the weeks ahead, the suit is clearly a retaliatory measure. When the social networking site filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, it requested, among other things, that the initial suit filed by Yahoo be dropped.

“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 prioritize litigation over innovation,” Facebook attorney Ted Ullyot said in a statement made Tuesday.

Responding to Facebook’s assertions, Yahoo released a statement of its own and, after discounting the counterclaim as “without merit and nothing more than a cynical attempt to distract from the weakness of its defense [against Yahoo’s claim],” reasserted the validity of its own suit against the popular social site.

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

Unsurprisingly, Yahoo’s more aggressive stance has earned it the unenviable label of “patent troll” among many in the tech world. Already suffering from an identity crisis and a severe relevance deficiency, Yahoo cannot afford to be lumped in with companies like Intellectual Ventures and other non-innovative, non-producing companies that make their millions on royalties and legal settlements if it truly wishes to regain notoriety.

If I was calling the shots up in Sunnyvale, I would give careful thought to my next move against a (projected) $100 billion company.

  • Does Yahoo own the patents on Flickr that masquerade that hardcore pron site as a family friendly place where grade school kids can chat with 1,000s of cloaked pedos too? How about tricking companies into sponsoring kiddipron? Yahoo seems to have cornered the market there already.