Facebook Sued Over Patent On Distributing Personal Info On A Network

from the no,-really dept

As you probably know by now, as a company gets bigger and more successful it means that they will certainly be sued for patent infringement. This isn't because they somehow "took" or "copied" someone else's ideas. But because there are so many ridiculous and overly broad patents out there that some jealous patent holder will seek to make some easy money with a lawsuit against a much more successful company. Facebook is already facing a few such lawsuits, including one where it's been ordered to reveal its entire source code.

The latest such lawsuit involves a tiny company, WhoGlue, who holds a patent 7,246,164 on "Distributed personal relationship information management system and methods." And, of course, WhoGlue has decided that Facebook infringes and needs to pay up. There are all sorts of problems with this kind of lawsuit. You have a patent on an obvious concept, that Facebook clearly developed independently (as have many others). And now Facebook will need to go spend on a legal defense. What a waste of resources.

Once again, we see that those who can't compete, sue.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 4:09am

    Patents only apply to a means to an end result and not the end result itself. That is, someone can patent a mousetrap that catches a mouse without killing it. I can build a different mousetrap that also captures a mouse without killing it. And as long as my mousetrap is different from the patented mousetrap (different hardware design and/or methodology) then I am not violating the patent even though the end result is the same.

    Same goes here, Go stuff yourselves in a hole and fill with your WHOGLUE and go away losers!

     

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  2.  
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    Chris Charabaruk (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 4:50am

    Re:

    The problem is, the onus still falls on Facebook to prove that it's a different means than the one covered by WhoGlue's patent.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Arthran, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:01am

    Onus

    Is it just me, or do you not think the whole system would be greatly improved if the person doing the suing has the responsibility to prove infringement.

    Ie Facebook don't have to prove they are doing something differently, WHOGLUE have to prove Facebook are infringing.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    ..., Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:06am

    Re:

    Except in these kinds of cases, the patent was written to cover the act of catching the mouse.

     

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  5.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:13am

    Prior Art

    This is ridiculous.

    Facebook started in 2003 and has offered its current service since 2006. This patent is dated July 2007 surely it's a simple case of prior art.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:21am

    The disturbing part is not that this happen but that it happens so often and the government are unwilling to take their role as "leaders" and lead for a change.

     

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  7.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:48am

    Not so tiny

    The latest such lawsuit involves a tiny company, WhoGlue.
    Yes - but they're 30% owned by Siemens so maybe not so tiny really....

     

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  8.  
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    Chris Charabaruk (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:01am

    Re: Onus

    That would be a massive, world-shaking improvement. Therefore, it won't happen.

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Chris Charabaruk (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:42am

    Re: Prior Art

    Is that the issue date or the filing date? If it's the filing date, then WhoGlue hasn't a leg to stand on. But if they filed before 2003, things get iffy.

     

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  10.  
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    mike42 (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:25am

    Prior art

    There have been apps that manage personal info (dating services, tickler apps) since the 80's, and they have been networked since the early 90's. If facebook has any sense, they will just go with prior art.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Nick, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    "An information management system, method and computer program code and means for facilitating communications between user members of an online network"

    Okay then, let's see some source code.

    Am I missing a couple pages from that patent link or do they not actually provide any information about how such a system would ACTUALLY be put together?

    Sure, they give a vague description and some generic wireframes of their management system but that doesn't require them to have any real idea of how to actually get such a thing working.

    Essentially, their description just describes a process of exchanging information on a network. Granted they do it in an overly technical sounding and obscure way, but that's all it is. Right? First user enters some info into a form, second user has access to it, after having been authorized by the first user. Is that the short and sweet of it or am I grossly mistaken?

    Seems to me that just about every web site that has two-way communication would be in violation of this in some fashion because all they are doing is describing how a computer network functions.

    Please somebody tell me that I'm dead wrong and clarify for me.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Link, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 9:19am

    The filing date was May 9, 2002. So, this may be a valid suit in terms of the current system. However software patents are and continue to be ridiculous and vague.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    staff1, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 9:02am

    stop the shilling!!!

    "But because there are so many ridiculous and overly broad patents out there that some jealous patent holder will seek to make some easy money...."

    You obviously have never invented anything, never filed a patent application, or fought to get it allowed. If you had you would never make such idiotic statements. Investing years of your life and all your savings to only find others using your invention while all you can do is sit and watch is maddening (watch A Flash of Genius). It is the farthest thing from "easy money". Inventors are overall better off buying a lottery ticket and saving the rest.

     

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  14.  
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    George Margolin, Sep 28th, 2009 @ 10:02am

    'LINK" seems like a nice fellow. Certain more polite than many of the posters on this site. So I hate to inform him and many of the rest of you - THAT UNTIL THERE IS A CHANGE in the U.S. Patent System -- the "FILING" date doesn't mean SQUAT!!! America is, at this point, THE most inventive country and the one and ONLY system in the WORLD -- where the Provable INVENTION date is the determinant. So please get off that FICTION that the filing date starts the count in our country. Now there are a bunch of Provisos -- that require that the date of INVENTION - is not left to languish and/or ABANDONED and is pursued with DILIGENCE -- but that is PART of creating an invention, that is NOVEL, useful and all the rest of the requirements. OH -- and it is "NON-OBVIOUS" at the TIME of its creation. And with the word "obvious" - it would pay us all to remember -- that AFTER is is shown or published or otherwise promulgate by the PTO or the inventor -- EVERYTHING SUDDENLY BECOMES OBVIOUS TO EVERYONE. Particularly ANYONE who hadn't invented it FIRST! In fact, I gave a humorous (very) speech in front of the USPTO and ALL its top staff many years ago. If anyone is interested in getting a copy -- please email me at WWW.PATENTOR@GMAIL.COM. Oh - and it worked -- along with speaches by some very bright people, like Don Banner -- former Pat Commish -- and others -- and the PTO DROPPED the foolish OBVIOUS scam they were pushing that very day.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    William Bob, Oct 3rd, 2009 @ 9:21am

    Facebook

    Facebook is a ridiculously fast growing network that should be band or stricly contained, changed, and improved, for the simple fact that you do not have the liberty to,

    1) Delete your account, only deactivate it, which should be illegal. If you have to ask why you are an ignorant twit;

    2) Contact any of the facebook administration staff to complain or even ask a question.

    They have more info on people around your country and the globe than any company like the CIA and can pinpoint where people connect whenever or however they want, without having to respect any of the privacy laws that they claim to go by. The simple reason for that is that the average human cannot even afford to take them to court, as simply opening a case against them would start at minimum 100 000$.
    But in my opinion it's just another misleading and fashist organisation implanted by the US Government, or should I say Washington. That being said, they keep giving the people food and entertainment, interaction, and we are happy so long as we're not at the bottom. Your kids will thank you and your ignorance one day when they realize how deep in the sh*t we are.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2010 @ 8:11pm

    Re: stop the shilling!!!

    Hey Riley!

    So please.. tell me what you would call a process that has no concrete implementation? I call it an idea... if I patents all of my "software inventions" sure I would have patents. I'm told all the time "you should get a patent on this!". I cant think of anything worse than contributing to the system thats destroying free markets all over the world. Frankly, you have no scruples. You're nothing but a lobbyist and your lack of originality as well as your inability to communicate, implies that your not very good at that.

    If you understood how damaging these silly patents are to your precious patent system, you would be all FOR removing them from the realm of patentable subject mater. But thats not what you really want, you don't give a rats ass about patents, you care only about the "inventor" because they feed you.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 5th, 2010 @ 8:25pm

    Re:

    what was this "OBVIOUS scam" you refer to? I think maybe you don't quite understand how software or Internet entrepreneurship works. I mean in reality, not in cathode tube patent land. It's as if you have blind faith in the system, while lashing out at anyone that challenges any aspect of it. This patent is not only obvious, it covers accepting a friends request. Not even what you would do with it.. just accepting it. It's not only obvious, it's egregious.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Mark, Apr 6th, 2010 @ 4:23am

    This article is contains clearly baised opinions.

    what makes the author say that the concept is "obvious". It is obvious now but was it obvious back then??

    what makes the author say that facebook developed the idea "independently"?? corporate thieves use sophisticated technologies to steal ideas and invention. NO person can say with 100% certainty that an idea was developed independently especially when the idea is been used by a high-profile company that had failed to patent the idea.

     

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