Facebook is being sued for patent infringement by venture capital firm Cross Atlantic Capital Partners, which seems to be the latest in a wave of investors involved in financing patent troll litigation. The plaintiffs are asking for licensing fees.
The subject of the suit is U.S. patent 6,519,629, which protects a "System for creating a community for users with common interests to interact in". The application was filed in 2001 and the patent issued in 2003. The abstract reads:
"An Information and Application Distribution System (IADS) is disclosed. The IADS operates, in one embodiment, to distribute, initiate and allow interaction and communication within like-minded communities. Application distribution occurs through the transmission and receipt of an "invitation application" which contains both a message component and an executable component to enable multiple users to connect within a specific community. The application object includes functionality which allows the user's local computer to automatically set up a user interface to connect with a central controller which facilitates interaction and introduction between and among users."I cannot even begin to convey my utter amazement that such broad patents are ever issued by the USPTO. This "invention" seems nothing other than an automated system to invite people into groups, a technology that was not even new in 1997, let alone 2001. Yahoo Groups has been around before, and could have been cited as prior art. Heck, even Usenet would be infringing this patent!
I love the types of technology covered by this broad patent. The technologies and applications that would be infringing are:
- chat application object: Messenger, AIM
- a white board application object: Facebook
- a shopping cart application object: Amazon
- a photo album application object: Flickr
- a store application object: eBay
- a voice and/or video conferencing application object: Skype
- a pals application object: Myspace