Strong opinions, weakly held

Yahoo brings the patent war to the Web

Yahoo has filed a lawsuit against Facebook for violating ten of its patents. You will not be surprised to learn that the patents are for obvious implementations of features that have all been used on literally hundreds if not thousands of Web sites. Facebook is about to generate a huge amount of capital through its IPO and Yahoo has its eye on the loot.

It’s hard to beat Fred Wilson’s direct response, but my personal favorite is Andy Baio’s. His perspective as a startup founder whose company was acquired by Yahoo is particularly interesting.

The question people who are concerned about the ongoing damage that patent litigation is inflicting on the technology industry need to be asking is how to make this a political issue that lots of people care about. Everyone I know who’s a technology insider sees this as a hugely important issue, but most people on the outside are hardly aware of it. If you need a refresher on this issue, there’s no better place to start than This American Life episode 441, When Patents Attack!

Jacob Goldstein, who did the This American Life story on patents, has a piece up about the Yahoo lawsuit.


  1. Mark Cuban has also weighed in on the issue: http://blogmaverick.com/2012/03/13/i-hope-yahoo-crushes-facebook-in-its-patent-suit/

    His take is that if Yahoo can get a big enough judgement to make FB make changes people notice, maybe they’ll figure out this patent war is going to have casualties.

    I suspect it far more likely FB will agree to some settlement with Yahoo and life will go on, though.

  2. Facebook allowing itself to actually be taken to the cleaners in a lawsuit with Yahoo would be the greatest instance of legal malpractice in history.

  3. I don’t think they’ll go to the cleaners, more like a few billion to pay the patent tax, unless they suspect settling will open them to a lot more patent lawsuits.

    However, people have been paying Microsoft for patents for a while now for things like Android, so settling vs. going to court seems to be a lot more popular.

  4. They did this to google just before it’s IPO, so some of this outrage is a function of short memories.

    Also, I like Baio but he chose to sell out; he doesn’t get to regret who he went to bed with. He knew what acquisition meant and chose it anyway.

    I’ll believe people are taking patents seriously when they refuse to register them, or start taking the care to write them properly so they aren’t so vague. No outrage necessary, just a little courage.

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