News broke earlier today that Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is stepping down and is leaving the company, after it was discovered he had not been awarded a computer science degree at Stonehill College as was claimed on his Yahoo biography. All this is big news for Yahoo, but I think it may also affect Facebook, specifically the patent battle between the two companies. Here's why.
Three months ago, a rumor suggested it was Thompson's idea to threaten Facebook with a patent war. Thompson promised "a smaller, nimbler, more profitable" company, and one of the ways he chose to boost the company's business performance was to monetize its patent portfolio.
It all added up. Thompson made many changes at Yahoo since being appointed CEO. The Facebook lawsuit was undoubtedly his riskiest, although one could argue that if successful, it could also be the most worthwhile, financially speaking at least. The technology industry, including current and former Yahoo employees, was not pleased, but the papers had already been filed.
Now that Thompson is no longer at Yahoo, there is a glimmer of hope that his replacement will agree with the rest of industry that the move was a very poor miscalculation. Of course, the new CEO could decide that it would look worse if Yahoo pulled out now. After all, we're not just talking about one or two patents.
Yahoo has already told Facebook it may infringe on 16 more patents, but I've personally been waiting for Facebook to hit back again first: either adding some of its own, some of the patents it bought from IBM, some AOL patents it's buying from Microsoft, or a combination.
I've previously said I hope Yahoo gives up its patent onslaught and focuses on building its business rather than patent trolling. With Thompson out, I hope the Web giant just drops the lawsuit altogether. That probably won't happen, but I think a settlement is significantly more likely now.
- Yahoo warns Facebook may infringe 16 patents with open source
- Yahoo accuses Facebook of infringing two more patents
- Yahoo: Facebook's AOL patent deal with Microsoft shows it is weak
- Tech industry applauds Facebook for Yahoo countersuit
- Here are the 10 patents Facebook is suing Yahoo with
- Facebook countersues Yahoo over 10 patents
- Yahoo sues Facebook over 10 patents