From business partners to frenemies, Facebook and Yahoo aren’t about to call their conflict quits anytime soon. In fact, it’s only escalating.
On Tuesday, Facebook filed to counter-sue Yahoo in the Northern District of California.
Yahoo though, was the one that struck first blood, suing Facebook on March 12 for infringing upon 10 patents related to social networking that Yahoo, with damages exceeding $5 million.
Facebook’s counter-claim alleges that actually, Yahoo is the one that needs to pay up for infringing upon 10 of Facebook’s patents. In fact, Facebook alleges that Yahoo’s most popular products, from its homepage to Yahoo News, Sports, Finance and photo-sharing website Flickr are all currently in violation of Facebook’s patents.
“From the outset, we said we would defend ourselves vigorously against Yahoo’s lawsuit, and today we filed our answer as well as counter-claims against Yahoo for infringing ten of Facebook’s patents,” said Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s attorney, in a statement emailed to TPM. “While we are asserting patent claims of our own, we do so in response to Yahoo’s short-sighted decision to attack one of its partners and prioritize litigation over innovation.”
Furthermore, Facebook’s counter-suit also denies most of what Yahoo alleges in its original claim, or that Yahoo should receive any money from Facebook.
From the onset of Yahoo’s lawsuit, many tech writers, Web entrepreneurs and other observers have broadly categorized Yahoo’s move as an unbecoming and particularly insidious one from the fading 90s Internet giant, especially as Yahoo was one of the first major websites to begin offering Facebook Connect logins and using Facebook’s Open Graph to show popular Yahoo content shared on Facebook.
Facebook in late March confirmed to TPM and others that it had purchased some 450 patents from IBM, in what many observers deemed to be a protective measure against Yahoo and other potential intellectual property lawsuits.
Broadly speaking, the Facebook and Yahoo brawl is reflective of an overall practice called “patent trolling,” in which companies exploit the relative ease with which they can accumulate software patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to put pressure on specific competitors, despite the fact that the patents may pertain to technology widely in use and that was derived around the same time. Many tech entrepreneurs, from World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners Lee to Mark Cuban, have called for patent laws to be reformed to prevent patent trolling.
But for now, the patent wars continue, with two big heavyweights slugging it out. Stay tuned.