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Yahoo's Own Lash Out At Company Over "Weaponized" Patents 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the any-tool-in-the-box dept.
Velcroman1 writes "Yahoo is suing Facebook for patent infringement — and the people responsible for Yahoo's patents are outraged. Andy Baio sold Upcoming.org to Yahoo in 2005 for an undisclosed sum, and agreed at the time to help the company file for patents based on the site he had invented and the code he had written. Baio was hesitant to do so, but told Wired.com that he thought he was helping as a precautionary measure. 'I thought I was giving them a shield,' Baio said. 'It turns out I gave them a missile with my name permanently engraved on it.' He helped Yahoo file for eight patents, four of which were later granted. And while none were cited in the Yahoo complaint, Baio said a handful were now 'weaponized to use against people like me.'" bdking points out that Mark Cuban is sick of the patent fiasco as well but his approach is slightly different. "He's rooting for Yahoo to 'destroy' Facebook in its patent lawsuit. Why? Because if Yahoo collects, say, $50 billion from Facebook and forces the social networking company out of business, consumers will revolt and demand patent reform."
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Yahoo's Own Lash Out At Company Over "Weaponized" Patents

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  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:11PM (#39357787) Homepage

    Destroying Facebook will not result in a "consumer revolt". The users will hop on the next big thing. They might go on G+, where they will incessantly upvote each others "Fuck Yahoo I miss Facebook" posts, without actually doing anything about it.

    Social media is dangerous in that respect, because it encourages people to talk about doing right, in order to get recognition from their "friends", without actually following through. Everyone suddenly thinks they're an activist because they shared some viral pic.

    • by nickdc (1444247)
      I agree people don't act as much as we want them to. The thing is that enough people will do something about it to be heard if given motivation from companies they depend on everyday.

      Lets take a look at SOPA / PIPA. Because enough people actually contacted their senators and got media attention, legislators thought twice about their stance.

      The real question is would FB alone be enough to get people to act and get the media coverage they need to influence the legislators? IMO it's doubtful unless somet
    • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:46PM (#39358127)

      Mark Cuban is a moron, and always has been. His major claim to fame is that he found an even bigger moron at Yahoo to pay $6B for Broadcast.com. If Yahoo hadn't given him all of that for no results they might not have had to start patent trolling to survive...

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        He may be a moron, but he's entertaining as hell on "Shark Tank".

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          Actually, moron is a bit harsh. He was smart enough to talk someone out of $6B and then hold onto it once it fell in his lap. And even better, he was smart enough to sell all of his Yahoo stock immediately because he knew what a pile of crap he had sold them. Ok, maybe he wasn't a moron at all, just a guy who is much better at getting people to give him money than building anything useful.

          I should have said "one lucky bastard". And as usual, it's better to be lucky than good...

      • I've been told that many patents are rejected, but 4 out of 8 sounds pretty poor. I'm 22 of 22, even though some prior art I found made me try to retract one, but the patent officer found a narrow interpretation that let it stand in a limited form. All mine have been used defensively. It turns out that you either have to have no viable business, or a ton of cash you're just itching to burn to start patent wars. The rest of us live in fear of being sued by someone with either no money and a bunch of lawyers,

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      In democracy, a large number of social media supporters worth more than a handful of fanatics.

    • by NIN1385 (760712)
      What you just described is one of the many reasons I detest facebook.

      So much so that I refuse to capitalize it's name.
    • by ndogg (158021)

      KONY 2012

    • by Asic Eng (193332)

      Yahoo will not destroy Facebook. They wouldn't do that even if their patents would be found to be valid - instead they would extort some money from Facebook. They may not be the sharpest knifes in the drawer, but they aren't completely stupid either - destroying Facebook doesn't generate income. Chances are this wouldn't affect the users in the least. What does a Facebook user care where the advertising money is paid to, and who owns how many shares in the company?

      I also wouldn't affect Yahoo much, becaus

    • by Anonymous Coward

      And awarding $50bn in damages against Facebook won't "destroy" anything, it'll just mean Yahoo! will own Facebook.

      As far as the users are concerned, nothing will change. Well, except maybe a new button or two will start to appear.

      • by billcopc (196330)

        Well now, I posit that if Yahoo were to inherit Facebook, they would fold in a millisecond. Top brass would cash out, the remaining suckers would continue Yahooing everything into mediocrity, and Fuckerberg would just start all over again.

  • by forkfail (228161) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:13PM (#39357799)

    That is all.

  • Is this a trend? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:14PM (#39357813)

    High profile employees bashing their own employers over company ethics and purpose - Google, Goldman Sachs, Yahoo, all just today.

    • by jc42 (318812)

      Is this a trend? High profile employees bashing their own employers over company ethics and purpose ...

      We can only hope.

      We read far too much here from the "Governments are always evil; corporations are always pure and good" crowd. In reality, since they're both run by humans, they tend to have roughly the same amounts of good and evil. And if either is allowed secrecy, the good part has a real disadvantage.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:17PM (#39357851)

    People don't even revolt when stimulus helps unions and banks and congressional pork rather than real people.

    People don't even revolt when gasoline and food prices go up, double, largely because of currency destruction which is a Presidential choice due to budget choices.

    People don't even revolt when police set up random checkpoints on highways, airports, train stations, and their own front yard.

    People are not going to revolt if Facebook stock gets crushed due to an outsized Patent award. It will simply mean Yahoo owns 50% of Facebook. The site will continue to function uninterrupted. It worked just fine with $40m so it will; work better with $5000m.

    JJ

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      sheeple

      This word is used exclusively by those it describes most accurately.

      • you sir are a dick
      • by shiftless (410350)

        This rebuttal is used by morons who can't think

    • by b1scuit (795301)
      WAKE UP SHEEPLE! [xkcd.com]
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:18PM (#39357859)

    Because if Yahoo collects, say, $50 billion from Facebook and forces the social networking company out of business, consumers will revolt and demand patent reform.

    As awesome as this fantasy scenario that takes out 2 birds with one stone sounds, lets be honest, it's just that. A fantasy.
    Facebook isn't going to crumble any time soon, unfortunately.

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:20PM (#39357889) Journal

      If Facebook feels that threatened, it can just buy Yahoo. What's the value now, $1.25, or is that including a cheeseburger?

      • by schlesinm (934723)

        If Facebook feels that threatened, it can just buy Yahoo. What's the value now, $1.25, or is that including a cheeseburger?

        I'm sure Google would just sit by and let Facebook buy Yahoo.

        • Re:Well... (Score:4, Funny)

          by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:32PM (#39357985)
          Yeah! Google would bid $1.25 and a double cheeseburger.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          If Facebook feels that threatened, it can just buy Yahoo. What's the value now, $1.25, or is that including a cheeseburger?

          I'm sure Google would just sit by and let Facebook buy Yahoo.

          Actually, they probably would. The FTC would come down on them hard for anticompetitive acquisitions. Actually, didn't they already try (or consider) that once before and got shot down for that very reason?

          • by dcw3 (649211)

            Actually, they probably would. The FTC would come down on them hard for anticompetitive acquisitions

            Oh, you mean like they did with Sirius and XM, the massive merger of news companies, and how many options do we have for cellphones service providers?

        • by Mabhatter (126906)

          Microsoft has Google tied up with Anti-trust mongering right now. (ironic that the only actual monopoly was so quick to turn the DoJ on somebody else) Microsoft has a deal with Yahoo that is basically a "poison pill" if Google tried to buy them. Microsoft couldn't buy Yahoo either, so they are just going to help their buddy Facebook drag them under.. And Microsoft will line up for the useful bits.

          Like all Microsoft's deals, they are really betting Yahoo will not just get the short stick, but go under... "a

      • by timeOday (582209)
        But now Yahoo can wield its patent threat against Facebook as an asset, increasing its Yahoo's share price for Facebook or whoever else might want to buy it. I'm sure google would like to get some patent ammo against Facebook for example.
        • I imagine Google would want some real patents. Yahoo may get a bit of push in stock price, but ultimately it will continue it's inevitable decline.

          If Yahoo wants to go after those that fucked it over, it could start by hunting down Jerry Yang and selling his organs to the highest bidder. That would probably make the company more money than this idiotic lawsuit.

      • by deuist (228133)

        I think that was SCO's thinking when it sued IBM

    • by Mabhatter (126906)

      It won't come to that, I like the "buy me" option. Of course if Yahoo! offered a "buy it now" price with a "one click" option they would then get sued by eBay and Amazon.

      Fortunately, (unfortunately) Microsoft has quite a bit of cash in BOTH horses and Uncle Bill won't like to see it pissed away.... I see merger/buyout/Microsoft forcing them to the table and building some new "open standard" for social networking patents between them.

  • by iamhassi (659463) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:23PM (#39357921) Journal
    Facebook.... well, Mark Zuckerberg, kind of deserves this. It's well known he stole Facebook from several people. [wired.com] Sure he wrote the code, but he was paid to write Facebook. Yes I know Paul and the twins [wired.com] ended up losing their lawsuit, but just because they couldn't afford to fight a billion-dollar legal team doesn't mean they're wrong.

    Is Yahoo's lawsuits just karma catching up with Mark?
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:46PM (#39358125) Journal

      Look, Zuckerburg didn't invent social networking and neither did twins, and neither did Yahoo. The twins' case was bullshit, and so is Yahoo's.

      Yahoo's lawsuits designed to pump up Yahoo's share price so someone with sufficiently deep pockets and small brain will buy them up. I suspect Yahoo is hoping Facebook will, just as SCO hoped that IBM would put them out of their misery and make the executives rich. Yahoo was completely fucked over by Jerry Yang, who refused Microsoft's outrageously large offer, and now it's down to this. This isn't the end of Facebook, this is the end of Yahoo. Either Zuckerburg will call their bluff and that will be it and whatever value is left in the company will be sold piecemeal to the highest bidders. But the company, well, it's worth shit. For chrissakes they're renting Bing as their search engine. They're utterly pointless.

      • Most people around here probably haven't noticed or don't care, but Yahoo! Sports is one of the finest online sports outlets there is. When the rest of Yahoo! collapses, I hope its sports department gets scooped up and kept in tact by someone. In particular, Fox should buy that division and replace everything it has with the Yahoo! equivalent.
    • Ceglia is a convicted scam artist, and the Winklevosses aren't exactly short of money. They showed up in court with 5 lawyers from 2 different firms. They lost because their cases had no merit.

    • by NIN1385 (760712)

      Facebook.... well, Mark Zuckerberg, kind of deserves this. It's well known he stole Facebook from several people. [wired.com] Sure he wrote the code, but he was paid to write Facebook. Yes I know Paul and the twins [wired.com] ended up losing their lawsuit, but just because they couldn't afford to fight a billion-dollar legal team doesn't mean they're wrong. Is Yahoo's lawsuits just karma catching up with Mark?

      No, it's a ton of lawyers making tons of money by going after another ton of lawyers. Mark will not give one fuck, he's made his money.

    • In a word: Yes. In several words: Zuckerberg is a very smart man, but even very smart men can be very, very stupid and short-sighted and a general pain in the ass. I would say that it's less Karma and more Zuckerberg having to pay the Danegeld to Yahoo. Of course, if Yahoo wins, then the feeding frenzy begins anew, and like the Danegeld, once you pay it, you'll never get rid of them.
  • I wonder how many techology companies are going to instruct their legal staffs to give Yahoo the ultimate anal probe with an eye towards brining them down. Revenge is a dish best served cold. ------ Someday I'll figure out how to put a pithy saying in this space.
  • by Skapare (16644) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:37PM (#39358041) Homepage

    ... used as economic and financial TERRORISM by big corporations.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "weaponized patents", that's like saying a weaponized gun.

    Anyways, Facebook can defend itself. But think about the chilling effect on smaller companies like semi-successful startups.

    There can be no ownership of an idea, unlike ownership of physical things. It is not defensible philosophically, as it is incompatible with control of your body (brain) and contractual agreements. Patents are simply monopoly privileges, which have as destructive effect on innovation and competitive entry when applied systematica

  • I agree with Mark Cuban, but only if it happens soon enough. Obviously nothing is guaranteed but there does seem to be a certain lifetime for social networking platforms (and facebook may or may not be reaching its own as shown by declining membership numbers in its initial markets), so they would have to win their suits before facebook collapses on its own, otherwise they end up with no money and no outrage from consumers.
  • Why? Because if Yahoo collects, say, $50 billion from Facebook and forces the social networking company out of business, consumers will revolt and demand patent reform.

    If Facebook were to be destroyed as a going concern because a verdict in Yahoo!'s favor exceeded Facebook's ability to pay (which is fantastically unlikely, but let's ignore that for a moment), its assets (including software, databases, and domain names, trademarks, etc.) would be sold off to pay its debts -- most likely sold to the same buye

  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @07:46PM (#39359203)

    'I thought I was giving them a shield,'

    Yeah, this country came along and asked me to make them a nuclear weapon, but promised they'd only use it if they were attacked. So I made it for them. And now that they're on the verge of collapse they're using it to extort their neighbours.

    Who's surprised? Patents aren't defensive.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      if he wanted to give them a shield.. ...he should just have published it as a prior art.

      he was never giving them a shield, he was giving them a knife to be used if attacked - that's quite far ways from giving a shield.

  • Has there ever been a patent that *wasn't* weaponized?

    • Yes. Many patents aren't weaponized, and are defensive. The media, and many here, are focussing on the case where desperate companies like Yahoo are using them as weapons. I would wager the vast majority of patents are not used in this way.

      Many arguments here focus on the philosophical "you can't own an idea." This may be true, but the practical reason for patents (justifiable philosophically or not) is to incentivize the development of new technologies. I've experienced the benefit of this thinking first h

      • by Alex Belits (437) *

        Fact of the matter is they wouldn't have worked on these technologies if another company could legally come in, replicate their product exactly, and take a significant slice of potential market share.

        Really???!! What were your parents, owners of the companies that used those patents? Or were they for some other reason paid a percentage of company's revenue or profits over some extended period of time?

        If not, it is no loss for them.

      • by Jonner (189691)

        The problem is patents on intangible things that were not until recently patentable like software and processes. I don't think patents on tangible inventions were used as weapons nearly as often. Now, it's not possible to write software and be confident you haven't unwittingly infringed someone's patent.

  • You make a weapon, you bear some culpability for its use in anger. I'm looking at you, Red Hat.

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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