Yahoo threatens Facebook with patent war

Yahoo threatens Facebook with patent war

Summary: Yahoo is now a patent troll. Its first target is Facebook. Yahoo is old and a failure. Facebook is new and a success. Instead of mooching off Facebook, Yahoo is biting the hand that feeds it.

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Yahoo may not be doing so well lately, and the failing Internet giant think it has finally found a solution: attack Facebook. The problem with such a brilliant plan is that Facebook is one of the few companies that is keeping Yahoo alive. Nevertheless, Yahoo claims Facebook is infringing on 10 to 20 of Yahoo's patents across technologies that include advertising, the personalization of Web sites, social networking, and messaging.

"Yahoo has a responsibility to its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders to protect its intellectual property," a Yahoo spokesperson told The New York Times. "We must insist that Facebook either enter into a licensing agreement or we will be compelled to move forward unilaterally to protect our rights."

Yahoo executives met with Facebook executives today to break the bad news and ask for a licensing fee. I got in touch with Facebook and got a response back surprisingly quickly. "Yahoo contacted us at the same time they called the New York Times and so we haven't had the opportunity to fully evaluate their claims," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

One of the few recent successes for Yahoo has been the resuscitation of Yahoo News. Guess how that happened. That's right: Yahoo recently implemented Open Graph with its desktop Facebook app, which also sends traffic to their mobile web app. Here's some early results from a Facebook Developers post from three months ago:

Yahoo! News: Built a deep Open Graph integration into its site and more than ten million people have chosen to turn on the new social news experience to share and discover news from friends. Yahoo! News has seen a 600% increase in traffic coming from Facebook, and people who connect to Facebook on Yahoo! read more articles than the average user.

Here's some even more recent results, from a Facebook Developers post just last week:

A final example, Yahoo!, recently implemented Open Graph with their desktop Facebook app, which also sends traffic to their mobile web app. Traffic to the mobile Yahoo! News web app from Facebook Mobile has increased three-and-a-half times since February 14th, to 1.6 million visitors a day.

I did a quick check for how the two companies stack up in patents at The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Yahoo has thousands of patents, although as already mentioned only a handful apply to Facebook's business. Facebook meanwhile has 62, though it's hard to say if Facebook will argue Yahoo infringes on any of them.

The timing is of course perfect: just in advance of Facebook's initial public offering (IPO). Based on the social networking giant's statement, it's obvious to me that Facebook hasn't yet figured out how it's going to fight back. Yahoo, meanwhile, has clearly never heard the proverb "don't bite the hand that feeds you." This could get ugly.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Legal

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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15 comments
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  • Thank you, Yahoo

    Watching Yahoo take the "SCO death plunge" will provide us with untold hours of amusement. I can't wait for the show to begin.

    Thanks!!!
    sismoc
  • How exactly is Facebook feeding Yahoo?

    They are totally disparate organizations who are competitors in a lot of areas, if not all, where they overlap.
    Lerianis10
    • Read

      Try reading the article.
      Empro
      • We did

        @Empro, so what?

        We all know you're a Facebook fanboy. If it hadn't been for that network, you'd be regulated into digital oblivion
        ScorpioBlack
  • YHOO

    I may just have to start using Yahoo a lot more for news and search... it's not terrible. I am tired of Facebook (though they are equivalent). I am against a world ruled by AAPL, Facebook, and GOOG.
    pdowns
  • Yahoo

    I prefer Yahoo for my mail and searches.

    KJR
    kjrider@...
  • SCO isn't dead

    It's a retirement home for lawyers. :)
    pgit
  • A Facebook Fanboy?

    Sounds like I just read an article from a Facebook Fanboy. I didn't know they existed until today. Yahoo isn't acting like Apple by trying to shut competitors down, they are asking Facebook to license those patents and if they are using them they should pay for them.
    fldbryan@...
  • Yahooooooooooooo

    I have been and still use Yahoo for all my mail services for ever and will be really upset if it kicks off.
    Grahajmrjohnson
  • And?

    Being that you did not reference, let alone even describe, a SINGLE patent at issue, WTH was the point of this article.

    If the patents are valid, then fb needs to pony up. If they aren't then they don't. End of story. Without knowledge of the specifics, however, no judgement can be made. I.e., this article was completely devoid of any purpose whatsoever.
    .DeusExMachina.
  • deusexmachina?? is correct.

    Patent troll is a pejorative term used for a person or company who buys and enforces patents against one or more alleged infringers in a manner considered by the target or observers as unduly aggressive or opportunistic, often with no intention to further develop, manufacture or market the patented invention. -- Wikipedia

    So, not only did you not reference any patents or discuss their validity, unless Yahoo bought the patents to enforce them in an aggressive or opportunistic way with no intention to develop, manufacture or market the patented invention, they do not fit the definition of patent troll and are therefor unfairly characterized in your attack on them.

    I wonder if that could be considered libelous?
    techadmin.cc@...
    • BS

      Microsoft and Apple both behave trollishly at times too, the definition is not limited to companies whose sole purpose is patent trolling, enforcing patents as a business model is destructive and damaging to all and is most noticeable in companies at or on the road to complete failure. It certainly is nothing to either be encouraged or cheered, rather it should be condemned whether people are fans of the company acting in that manner or not.
      Huw1968
      • If you have patents you must enforce them or you lose enforcement rights

        If you have a patent and you do not enforce it against everyone, then you will lose the right to enforce it against anyone. If you don't enforce it, then you have abandoned it. Enforcing patents is done by all companies with patents. It is not evil, it is just business. Yahoo and Facebook will make a deal, with "undisclosed terms". Just watch.
        billth87@...
  • The writer is simply...

    or should I say, "simple". ZD really needs to clean house and get some decent, unbiased columnists...

    Sad, what they've become. Back in the day, they were top of the heap. Now they're just a heap.
    no_axe_to__grind
  • Oh its been around a few years ...

    That must mean it is no good anymore. Let's just throw it out and get a new one! WAAAA! Grow TFU you spoiled little brat Emil. Stay on Facebook. That is where your kind belongs anyways. Out of my way.
    paulfx1