Yahoo sues Facebook: Which patents are in dispute?

Yahoo sues Facebook: Which patents are in dispute?

Summary: Yahoo is suing Facebook over the alleged infringement of 10 patents. But what do these patents refer to, and could Facebook users be affected?


Within a few days of Yahoo threatening to sue Facebook over the alleged infringement of patents, the once search giant made good on its promise.

Yahoo is now suing the world's largest social network over 10 crucial patents it says it owns.

Looking through these patents, it is clear to see that while Facebook may or may not be in the wrong --- let's allow the courts to decide that --- the social network clearly has a number of features in which Yahoo has got itself worried about.

From instant messaging to email patents, to the ones that appear absolutely crucial to the social network's advertising business model, should Yahoo win, Facebook could be in deep trouble.

Here's what we think is going on:

U.S. Patent No. 69075667100111, 7373599 --- "Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage"

These patents refer to where Facebook places its advertisements, such as "Sponsored Stories" on the right hand side of each page. These three patents, which Yahoo claims a stake in, are described as being able to change and adapt based on the "likelihood that an event will occur" based on other factors, like clicking 'Like' on a business page.

U.S. Patent No. 7668861 --- "System and method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network"

This patent allows the detection of keywords in a set of data, such as a status update. This could easily relate to tagging names in status updates or tagging other users in photos, for example. Ultimately, it keeps a quiet tab of how often you contact or interact with people to then make them appear higher up in Facebook search rankings, for example.

U.S. Patent No. 7269590 --- "Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user"

This patent allows for a user's personal information to be added to a social network, for which then others within that social network can be brought together by similar personal data, such as "dating, employment, hobbies, and the like". This gives Facebook the juice to define the experience for its users based on the information they upload, and to display friends' content more prominently based on many other mitigating factors.

U.S. Patent No. 7599935 --- "Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user's authorisation level"

This one allows for two users to interact with each other based on their relationship. It allows a first user to preview content as it would be seen by a second user, provided that second user had a relationship with the first. It means users on Facebook, simply put, share content, messages and items with selected people.

U.S. Patent No. 7454509 --- "Online playback system with community bias"

In terms of Facebook, it is a music station that is based on what you and your friends listen to. It grants user entertainment according to a community of similar tastes. The "with a community bias" bit allows fan pages of bands, businesses, and all kinds of other industries to interact with the social network's users.

U.S. Patent No. 5983227 --- "Dynamic page generator"

And here's the "Timeline" patent, basically. This patent allows a page template --- like an empty Facebook profile page --- to be filled in with content. While the patent refers to "stock quotes, news headlines, sports scores, weather, and the like", it apparently also relates to music, photos, and status updates from ordinary users.

U.S. Patent No. 7747648 --- "World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities"

This patent allows you to message your friends, and allow them to message you as though it was real world communication. Facebook is ultimately all about whom you connect with --- and not just your friends. This patent makes it happen, by giving users a "communication channel" to other people and businesses, events, and communities.

U.S. Patent No. 7406501 --- "System and method for instant messaging using an e-mail protocol"

And finally, and simply put --- because it's the easiest of them all --- this patent makes communication between an instant messaging client and email work. It allows for an instant messenger user to use an instant messenger, and share messages with an email user who is using an email client, and the two are none the wiser that each other are using different platforms. The experience is seamless. Facebook introduced such a feature when it rolled out Messages last year.

Image credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET.


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  • Yahoo Social

    Yahoo's only social network (other than chat rooms full of pedos) is Flickr. It was essentially stolen from Fotolog by Ludicorp. Soon after purchase, Yahoo hired hackers to disable Fotolog, stealing pretty much all their members over to Flickr.
    If anything, Yahoo could patent the way they have successfully masqueraded Flickr as a family-friendly site when it happens to be full of pron and the same countless pedos that populated their chat rooms. This pron site for kids that isn't seen as one, due to augmented reality and PR control Yahoo has achieved would be a more impressive thing (I guess) if they wouldn't of lost tons of ad clients over it. Of course, those companies were too embarrassed by being called out on sponsoring millions of hardcore adult images shared with kids by open predators and pedos Yahoo cloaks, for them to say anything about it. The past 8 years of this goofy practice by Yahoo was well documented by at least one source braver than Zack here.
    Ninth Life
    • But wait...

      They have advertisements ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE (because people might click another button near it)!

      How exciting and innovative is that? Where in the world would Yahoo have come up with such great ideas?

      Apple and Yahoo should team together and sue the world. I've been looking forward to having fruits on my sheets, clocks, and a big 'Y!' on my lamps.

      Companies should be penalized at a minimum, 10 million dollars for wasting courts time, then another 10 mil for exploiting the patent office.
  • So this is what it's come to.

    Yahoo's seen the writing on the wall? And now they're on the way to becoming the next SCO.
    • Re:

      Let's hope so. The sooner this dinosaur becomes extinct, the better.
  • A lot of the patents...

    seem obvious and were in common use when I learnt to program, back at the beginning of the 80s...

    It always amazes me, what the US IPO lets through.
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  • Title

    I wouldn't shed a tear if Facebook was brought down ... even though I use it everyday.. I do dispise it's role in modern society.. we are getting to attached to our screens..
  • Again this type of BS is getting old.

    I wish Congress would catch wind of this BS these corporations are doing. If all those so called patents held up in court, half the internet would have to be shut down for infringement. Here's a crazy idea Yahoo, how about actually doing something creative. Like streamlining your business model, cutting out wasteful spending (ie, paying insane bonuses to the CEO). But we all know that won't happen. It was probably the CEO who initiated this BS of patent infringement to start with. Trying to save his own bacon before it gets fried.
  • Software patents are just wrong

    I have a real problem in general with software patents. Most of them document the blatantly obvious. I don't believe you should be able to patent an algorithm - because ultimately any person with the appropriate level of intelligence can use his own mind to deduce the steps required to perform any arbitrarily complex sequence. If I have figured out on my own how to send email should that prevent me from doing it just because someone else thought of it before me?
    • Re; Software patents are just wrong.

      I could not agree more.

      It shows again and again that these "patents" does not do [b] anything [/b] to [i] promote the useful arts [/i] at all.

      They hamper all innovation and only feeds the greed of lawyers and swindlers !

      When we consider the stated purpose of patents, it is all too clear that this disadvantage the US has in software "patents", is either completely [b] defective [/b] or this system of SW "patents" is designed by enemies of the US for the purpose of holding the US back.

      This sad state of affairs can now only be corrected by completely [b] deleting [/b] all "software patents" and make it a criminal offence to apply for a new "software patent".
      That way US can get back the innovation it WAS so well known for, without innovators fearing the next patent litigation.
  • Does it come as a surprise

    Microsoft buys Yahoo and then all the BS - not exactly a surprise.

    How can putting ads on the right of the screen be patented? Ridiculous.
    • Microsoft didn't buy Yahoo

      Microsoft doesn't own Yahoo, they partner with them to provide search results and an advertising platform. This is all the new Yahoo CEO's doing.
  • Owwwwwww Zuck is USC without a paddle


    More patent wars!
  • In what alternate universe

    were any of these things patentable?
    Soon the US Patent Office will approve patents for eating, drinking and breathing. Then we're all screwed.