Dutch Firm Sues Facebook Over ‘Like’ Patent
Mark Zuckerberg is heading back to court, and it’s looking as if he won’t “like” the results. The widow of Dutch computer programmer Joannes Jozef Everadus van Der Meer alleges the Facebook founder ripped off her deceased husband’s patented “like” button, which he invented in the 1990s.
Rembrandt Social Media, on behalf of the van Der Meer family, filed suit against Facebook last week in a US District Court in Virginia, claiming van Der Meer patented nearly identical versions of Facebook’s “like” and “share” functions in 1998—six years before Zuckerberg launched Facebook.
“Although Mark Zuckerberg did not start what became Facebook until 2004, it bears a remarkable resemblance, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation, to the personal Web page diary that van Der Meer had invented years earlier,” court documents said.
Van Der Meer was granted patents in 2001 and 2002 for features used on the domain “surfbook.com” that he used as a personal diary. He formed the company Aldministrator Nedereland—Aduna—in order to commercialize his ideas, but died in 2004 before he could complete his plan. Since that time, his family has sought compensation for his inventions.
The first of van Der Meer’s patents described a method by which people could create personal Web diaries in chronological order and share third-party content with a select group of users through privacy settings. Sound familiar?
How about this one? The second patent described a way users could transfer content to a personal diary by clicking on buttons present on third-party Web pages, which link to the user’s diary.
The similarities were no coincidence, either. Just last June, Facebook acquired a patent originally granted to AOL that described a method of running cross-platform applications on a wireless device. Here’s the kicker: That patent actually lists one of van Der Meer’s patents as a reference. Get ready to pay up, Zuck.
“Upon information and belief, the acquisition of the ’966 patent either reinforced Facebook’s prior knowledge of the ’316 and ’362 patents, or made Facebook aware of the ’362 patent and of the related ’316 patent,” the lawsuit said.
Since Rembrandt alleges Facebook’s infringement of van Der Meer’s patents was willful, the suit suggests the damages awarded should be multiplied.
“We believe Rembrandt’s patents represent an important foundation of social media as we know it, and we expect a judge and jury to reach the same conclusion based on the evidence,” said a release from Tom Melsheimer, an attorney with Fish & Richardson, the firm representing the Dutch company.
This isn’t the first time Zuckerberg has been accused of ripping off his social network. In 2008, Tyler and Cameron Winlevoss and their partner Divya Narendra settled for a reported $65 million over allegations Zuckerberg stole the idea of Facebook from them. Still, even that amount was a drop in the bucket for the multi-billionaire CEO. Apparently, it pays to steal intellectual property when you’re at the top.
[Image via Flickr/Kevin Krejci]
I want more stuff like this!