Yahoo Resorting to Patent Trolling

I know times are tough for Yahoo, but I didn’t think they’d resort to this sort of behaviour:

Yahoo Sues Facebook For Patent Infringement

The document with all the information regarding the complaint is a pretty dry read, it also appears to be a photocopy and is hard to read.  However, if you do take the time to read it you’ll be pretty astounded at the stuff that Yahoo has been given patents for and is now suing for.

Basically almost anything that we’d expect to be pretty standard in a current generation web application is covered.  Some items include:

  • Providing a customized web page based on a users preferences (ie if you’re into sports we’ll show you sports etc)
  • Advertising that is relevant to the users and tools to prevent click fraud
  • Creating profiles and tailoring your experience on the site according to your interests
  • Patents related to joining groups around common interests
  • The ability to “connect” to other people and businesses is based on “Yahoo’s patents”
  • Allowing users to have various privacy settings (the 590 patent, which comically was filed in 2007, after Facebook came into being)

The stuff they’re claiming ownership of is incredibly generic stuff.  Now perhaps we just think that because of how far the internet has come and we wouldn’t be here if not for the billions of dollars of R&D done by Yahoo over the years, but I doubt it.

Most of this stuff existed on other websites before Yahoo, they just had the gall to file a patent for it.

Now, some might be saying that it’s no big deal for Facebook.  They’re about to become a $100 billion company when they go public, and they’re killing it so they can afford to do some sort of settlement with Yahoo.  The trouble is that this court case is so much more important than that.  This will set a very important precedent for future software patents.

So many software patents are incredibly vague, and don’t speak to the implementation of a process, but only how the user interacts with the software.  So, Facebook undoubtedly created their own unique code base to achieve all of this stuff that Yahoo is suing for, but because Yahoo has a similar feature they’re suing.  Most if not all of these patents should be invalidated, and it’s important that Facebook fights for that to happen, otherwise Yahoo will begin trolling it’s way through the tech industry going after every single company with similar features.  You allow your users to have granular control over their privacy settings?  Pay up.  You allow your users to have relationships with other users? Pay up.  You get the picture.