As a prior patent attorney dealing with method patents (aka process patents or loosely called software patents) this is a very interesting case to me. These are the types of patents involved with online businesses. Obviously Facebook, like any large company, may attract lawsuits due to their success. However some may have merit. This particular lawsuit against Facebook is very interesting.
Potentially Infringed Patents
There are two patents in question:
- 6,289,362 : View Entire Text of 6,289,362 at US PTO here
- 6,415,316 : View Entire Text of 6,415,316 at US PTO here
The first patent 6,289,362 is entitled System and method for generating, transferring and using an annotated universal address and patent 6,415,316 is entitled Method and apparatus for implementing a web page diary. Both list the inventor as Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer.
From what I read in the BBC Article this individual has passed away. The patents were assigned to a holding company named Rembrandt Social Media. The case against Facebook was filed in the Federal Court in Virginia. This particular court is known as the Rocket Docket because after you file you can be in front of a judge, and jury, much faster than any other district. The patents were filed in 1998 and were issued in 2001 and 2002.
How to Read the Patent
Every patent has the same sections, such as the abstract and the description. The most important part is what is known as the Claims. Think of the claims as defining what is protected, much like a fence around a yard. Some claims are broader than others and therefore protect more much like a larger fence around a larger property. The patent ending in 316 discusses what they call a ‘diary’. I do not want to speculate on the case itself but as it unfolds I will provide what I find.
While most of what I have read discusses the “like” feature I am guessing there may be more features involved in this suit.