With public companies like Yahoo and Mitel targeting Facebook for patent infringement, the company has found itself scrambling to build up its defenses. This begs the question: how many patents does Facebook have to defend itself with?
While Facebook won't say anything officially, there are some places worth checking. First off, when Menlo Park filed for its $5 billion initial public offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), it had this say about patents:
As of December 31, 2011, we had 56 issued patents and 503 filed patent applications in the United States and 33 corresponding patents and 149 filed patent applications in foreign countries relating to social networking, web technologies and infrastructure, and related technologies. Our issued patents expire between May 2016 and June 2031. We cannot assure you that any of our patent applications will result in the issuance of a patent or whether the examination process will require us to narrow our claims. In addition, any patents may be contested, circumvented, found unenforceable or invalid, and we may not be able to prevent third parties from infringing them.
Since both Yahoo and Mitel are suing Facebook in the U.S., let's stick to where the lawsuits are. We thus know that Facebook ended 2011 with at least 56 patents of its own. A check today shows Facebook has at least 62 patents, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Those are the ones that have been filed and granted in its name, as well as granted to other companies but that are now owned by Facebook. Facebook has bought patents that were previously owned by Applied Materials (one), British Telecommunications (three), Cheah IP (two), Compaq (one), Divan Industries (one), Friendster (10), HP (eight), Philips Electronics (11), and Walker Digital (five).
More will likely be granted given how many the company has filed, but until then, those are useless in court. The biggest bump by far came last week, when Facebook confirmed it had purchased 750 patents from IBM. Assuming the number is exact, Facebook now has 812 patents. Facebook's patent portfolio is likely to keep growing over the next few months, and very rapidly.
Facebook declined to comment on this article.
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