Earlier this year Facebook was sued by American patent trolls Rembrandt IP, allegedly representing the deceased Jos van der Meer.
Van der Meer’s heirs claim that the Dutchman invented the concept of Facebook in 2001, calling it Surfbook. The Register reports that an American jury disagreed in no uncertain terms: “the Eastern District of Virginia jury decided that the patents were “shabby” and shouldn’t have been granted”.
In 2001, a full two years before Facebook was founded, Van der Meer had patented things like keeping a personal diary on the web. Damning evidence indeed if you squint your eyes for a moment and forget that Geocities was founded in 1994 and the word ‘weblog’ was coined in 1997.
On its website Rembrandt IP writes: “[our company] undertakes a rigorous diligence process to investigate all intellectual property it considers for enforcement actions. […] Due to the high level of internal resources needed to complete this in-depth process, we are very selective when determining which opportunities to consider.”
Did their process fail them this time around or did Rembrandt IP expect to lose? Given that they started a lawsuit in January against another tech giant, Apple (PDF), a reasonable person would probably forgive me for thinking that they start these cases for the publicity it generates. (I am not sure how effective a strategy it is to lose your cases).
- Facebook on trial for infringing Dutch patent
- In Defense Of Patent Trolls (external, by Rembrandt IP’s chairman Pao)