Facebook is no stranger to litigation, but a new lawsuit filed against the company this month might be the weirdest to date. As of February 5, Facebook is being sued by deceased Dutch programmer and apparent social web pioneer Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer.
Thomas Edison’s Legal Team v. Facebook
The late Van Der Meer is being represented by patent holder Rembrandt Social Media and legal group Fish & Richardson, a firm that represented Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. Facebook’s legal team hasn’t been around since 1878, but isn’t exactly new to this sort of thing. (And hey, it’s hiring - this might be a long one, after all.)
Two Patents In Question
The lawsuit, filed in the state of Virginia’s federal court, alleges that Facebook infringed upon two of Van Der Meer’s patents. U.S. Patent No. 6,415,316 introduced a “Method and apparatus for implementing a web page diary”, which the suit will contend was a precursor to Timeline. U.S. Patent No. 6,289,362 outlined a ”System and method for generating, transferring and using an annotated universal address”, and has the Like button in its sights. The patents, filed in 1998 and issued to Van Der Meer in 2002 and 2001, respectively, both pre-date the 2004 dawning of Facebook. Social bookmarking company Add This is also being sued for violation of the second patent.
And according to Ars Technica, it gets weirder – around the time he filed the patents, Van Der Meer also owned www.surfbook.com, though what he intended to do with the domain is a mystery. According to a Whois search, surfbook.com is now owned by brand protection group MarkMonitor. Patent-holder Rembrandt claims that the patents “represent an important foundation of social media as we know it” and is seeking royalties on this so-called foundational knowledge until 2021.
The IP claim on “web page diaries” would seem to have some big implications for, well, pretty much the whole internet. Besides, some of us were already avidly documenting what we had for lunch on sites like Open Diary and LiveJournal in the internet dark age of 1999 – back when Timeline was only a twinkle in Zuckerberg’s eye.
Image of Mark Zuckerberg by Taylor Hatmaker
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