As reported just a little under a month ago, Yahoo is suing social networking giant Facebook over 10 patents. The timing of the lawsuit remains a subject of interest, timed as it is prior to Facebook’s initial public offering.
But Mark Zuckerberg’s company, it turns out, isn’t in the mood to take this lying down. Facebook has launched a counterattack against Yahoo, launching legal action against the web portal that claims it has infringed on 10 of the social networking site’s patents.
Patent litigation is hot stuff in the tech world right now and nobody’s immune to its siren song, from Apple and Motorola to Samsung and Apple to Research In Motion and Dutch semi-conductor company NXP. These patent skirmishes are ways for companies to assert themselves further. In the case of Facebook and Yahoo, Facebook claims that Yahoo’s infringement has “irreparably harmed” them.
Yahoo, meanwhile, heads to the strategic watermark to suggest that Facebook’s counterclaim is nothing more than a weak attempt at defending itself against accusations it cannot defend itself against. In other words, it’s a smokescreen “”without merit and nothing more than a cynical attempt to distract from the weakness of its defense.”
Some analysts are painting Facebook’s tactic in a different shade, though. The suggestion is that the social networking company is fighting back in what could be considered a relatively inopportune time. The simpler road, theoretically of course, would be to simply send Yahoo a sack of money in hopes of settling the allegations. By not backing down and by countering, Facebook sends a message that they aren’t to be messed with.
“This is dead-on, exactly what Facebook is supposed to do,” said Erin-Michael Gill, the chief intellectual property office for MDB Capital. “They’re responded really aggressively by filing a diversified complaint that covers a whole host of product and features. Facebook is not coming back with 10 patents around one technology – it’s 10 patents around a number of technologies.”
Recently, Facebook snapped up some 750 patents from IBM. The implication in this lawsuit is that at least some of the purchased patents are tied up in so-called cross-licensing deals with Yahoo. The purchase therefore gave Facebook a veritable fleet of massive bargaining chips with which to leverage itself over Yahoo in this process. Going forward, it’s expected that Facebook will use its position to its advantage. But it’s also expected that Yahoo’s patent portfolio is deep enough to weather the storm, which could mean that Facebook winds up slipping their rival some green after all – “like” it or not.