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Facebook Sued By Rembrandt IP For Two Patent Violations 105

Posted by timothy
from the paint-me-a-picture dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars is reporting that the patent-holding company, along with the heirs of Dutch programmer, Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer (deceased 2004), have filed suit against Facebook for violating two patents relating to social media web sites. The two patents in question were filed for back in 1998, a full four years before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg first entered university at Harvard. Among the claims made in the lawsuit is that Facebook's "Like" button violates one of Van Der Meer's patents. Facebook even cited one of Van Der Meer's patents in one of their own filings later on. The suit seeks unspecified damages."
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Facebook Sued By Rembrandt IP For Two Patent Violations

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  • by Nemyst (1383049) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @01:37PM (#42850947) Homepage

    Please. I hate Facebook as much as the next guy, but this is just ridiculous.

  • ...will somebody sue me for patent violation due to previous art in "first", "second" and "third"?
  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @01:43PM (#42851007)

    "The way the patent laws work, and have worked for 200 years, is that when someone else uses it—whether intentionally or unintentionally—they owe a reasonable royalty," said Melsheimer. "It's not necessarily a function of bad intent or malicious planning. The notion that the original inventor didn't succeed in commercializing the invention is, legally speaking, not relevant.""

    Patents are absolute monopolies which allow any and all royalty rates ... reason doesn't enter into it.

    • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus.slash ... .com minus distr> on Sunday February 10, 2013 @04:15PM (#42852247) Homepage Journal

      "The way the patent laws work, and have worked for 200 years, is that when someone else uses it—whether intentionally or unintentionally—they owe a reasonable royalty," said Melsheimer. "It's not necessarily a function of bad intent or malicious planning. The notion that the original inventor didn't succeed in commercializing the invention is, legally speaking, not relevant.""

      Patents are absolute monopolies which allow any and all royalty rates ... reason doesn't enter into it.

      Not so. Patents are absolute monopolies that can be used either for injunctive relief, which allows no royalties by definition because the infringer is no longer allowed to continue infringing; or for monetary damages, which allows a "reasonable royalty". In other words, you can either get 0 royalties and have an absolute monopoly, or you can get a reasonable royalty and no monopoly. You simply cannot have "any and all royalty rates," like 100% of revenue or infinite dollars per unit or whatnot. Check out 35 USC 284.

      • "Upon finding for the claimant the court shall award the claimant damages adequate to compensate for the infringement, but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention by the infringer, together with interest and costs as fixed by the court. "

        The actual royalty rates you have to pay to use a patent officially are not limited to reasonable ones.

  • by eksith (2776419) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @01:44PM (#42851015) Homepage

    Simple... If Facebook has the guts to do it. Turn all of Facebook off. That's right, just a blank page to Facebook.com and make all FB powered comments show one thing :

    Dear Facebook user : We're currently being threatened with litigation by Rembrandt Social Media (link to their site for extra lulz). As of this moment we're unable to serve Facebook until this matter is resolved. Please contact your local congress person regarding the unfairness of this blah... blah... blah...

    Do that worldwide.

    Facebook will lose a day's revenue, and my-oh-my, will that get everyeone's attention. And before someone asserts that they're just protecting their IP... um... no. Not only do "copyright holding" companies fly against the very face of the very spirit of copyright protection -- that is to give innovators of a concept and creation to profit from that creation -- these guys don't invent anything, don't produce anything, don't contribute anything to society. It's the copyright equivalent of cybersquatting.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hm, too risky. You forget, Facebook users aren't what I would call "active". The little twats on Twitter, maybe, but Facebook? They'd twitch a bit for a day or so, but they wouldn't say a damn thing to anyone that matters. If it goes too long, they'd quickly drift away. Advertisers and marketers wouldn't panic; hell, they've been saying that Facebook advertising isn't getting them much to begin with. The big brands would just write it off the same way they wrote off Second Life (remember that brief pe

    • by 517714 (762276)
      Facebook should really show 'em and shut down permanently!
    • by XaXXon (202882)

      You don't remember what happened to myspace very well, do you?

      • by eksith (2776419)

        I sure do. But Facebook is no MySpace. Their biggest mistake was staying static once getting to the top, whereas Facebook kept adding features, improving the systems in the backend and front. There are numerous games/apps that spread like wildfire. They were always actively trying to court companies into promoting through the platform and making it easier (read:harder) to share content without their direct cooperation and blessing.

        They may be unscrupulous with regard to their cattle, but one thing FB never

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      > Turn all of Facebook off.

      And nothing of value is lost.

    • Simple... If Facebook has the guts to do it. Turn all of Facebook off.

      The problem is that all the facebooks or Google's of this world, has patents them-self and are part of the problem. They could the thing they do in a hear beat (and it isn't the first time that I see this mentioned) but they would cut in their own skin.
  • by theedgeofoblivious (2474916) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @01:46PM (#42851045)

    Can someone explain why it's reasonable to have patents and copyrights continue to exist after the original author is dead?

    I really never understood that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You realise that if IP rights terminated with their death you are creating the perverse incentive to have copyright holders and inventors of patented inventions assassinated.

    • by godrik (1287354)

      Think of the children^Wshare holders!

    • Would you prefer corporate hit men bumping off young inventors to protect their company's standing?

      What I don't understand is how patent trolling promotes anything. Nor how life+decades are limited times.

      "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

      • Corporations already routinely use things created by individuals and smaller companies regardless of copyright or patent. As long as their legal team has tens of billions of dollars behind it they can outspend you 100:1, they're pretty comfortable with the fact that they can litigate you until your bankrupt and then buy your patents or copyrights or just buy your whole company. Patents and copyrights do not really protect small inventors.

    • by whoever57 (658626) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @02:11PM (#42851227) Journal

      Can someone explain why it's reasonable to have patents and copyrights continue to exist after the original author is dead?

      Imagine that you create something and then die the next day. You and your heirs will never get any reward for your creation. Now imagine that you die and, instead of passing your house and posessions to your heirs, the government takes it all. Ultimately, ownership of anything (physical or intellectual) is possible only because laws allow you to own it.

      The real problem with copyright is not that they continue to exist after the author is dead, but that the terms are far too long. Patents are not too long, but are granted for things that are obvious and not inventive.

    • by Warhawke (1312723)
      The idea is that copyright is supposed to benefit the life of the heirs as well as the author, else a 70-something year-old might not have as much incentive to create if he only expects to get a couple years revenue off of it. I'd prefer a system of a flat number of years, like copyright once was and patents still are. 28 was reasonable, 28+28 is acceptable. Life + 70 is overkill. 14 years on patents wouldn't be bad if 1) software patents were actually drawn up by people who knew what the fuck they were
    • Copyrights and Patents are two very different things. They get clumped together under IP Law, but I know IP lawyers who focus only on Copyright (and usually trademarks) and then just patents. Often the folks who deal with patents have engineering or scientific undergraduate degrees. They are two very different beasts as patents have a term of 17 years in the US and that doesn't matter if you are a company of individual or trust/estate. It's 17 years. Problem has become business process patents. Those

      • Stop falling for the propaganda (aka P.R.) there is no such thing as I.P. it was created to fool people into merging all concepts into 1 generic term for the benefit of the industry. In addition, it is called Property when it is not property or even tangible!

        Also they put forward this myth people have fallen for that only big powerful interests can create anything of value. Music and art always existed and these laws did not exist during most of human of civilization. Inventions also happened without them;

        • by chrismcb (983081)

          Stop falling for the propaganda (aka P.R.) there is no such thing as I.P. it was created to fool people into merging all concepts into 1 generic term for the benefit of the industry. In addition, it is called Property when it is not property or even tangible!

          Don't be circular in your definition. It is called "property" because it is something you own. In the case of copyright, you own the right to copy, and in patent you own the right to use the process. Just because you don't like the name doesn't mean it shouldn't be used.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          there is no such thing as I.P.

          There is no such thing as property either. It only means something because there are laws and conventions in a civilised society that allow it to exist.

    • Suppose I am a 65 year old writer.

      If I work, say for a movie studio my creations will be worth substantially less to the studio than a younger author if the copyrights expire at my death.

      This will make it hard for me to get a job or otherwise sell my works.

      • A movie studio can make a billion dollars off of a movie in five years. Your objection would seem to point to copyright terms being too long in general rather than them being too short.

        • A movie studio can make a billion dollars off of a movie in five years. Your objection would seem to point to copyright terms being too long in general rather than them being too short.

          No, his objection points to the term needing to exist after the inventor or author's death, to protect older inventors and authors. That the term is too long overall is a different argument. You could have a 5 year term, but that doesn't help the author who dies the day after publishing if it doesn't extend past his or her death.

          • That the term is too long overall is not a separate argument.

            If you're concerned that older writers are unfairly disadvantaged because younger writers could sell the authority to use their creations for decades, then the solution seems obvious: Reduce the younger writers' ability to sell the authority to use their creations.

            I am going to die at some point. I have no intention of leaving an heir. When I die, the idea that authority over the things I have created would somehow be held by some private individu

            • That the term is too long overall is not a separate argument.

              If you're concerned that older writers are unfairly disadvantaged because younger writers could sell the authority to use their creations for decades, then the solution seems obvious: Reduce the younger writers' ability to sell the authority to use their creations.

              I am going to die at some point. I have no intention of leaving an heir. When I die, the idea that authority over the things I have created would somehow be held by some private individual instead of being available for the common good is not only not desirable to me, but I see it as really detrimental, and despicable that someone might hope to gain from my work by denying it to others.

              Ah, but fortunately, we live in a representative democracy, and not in a "my situation is different than everybody else's, but nonetheless, the laws should be written specifically for me" dictatorship. I have no plans for kids either, but am not so selfish that I believe that people who do want kids should be impaired in their ability to pass on an inheritance. After all, I realize that I too had parents and inherited from them. Perhaps this does not apply in your case?

    • by rwyoder (759998)

      Can someone explain why it's reasonable to have patents and copyrights continue to exist after the original author is dead?

      I really never understood that.

      Hey! zombies deserve the right to be rewarded for their innovations!

    • You have to have "life + 25" or some such to allow corporations to negotiate expensive contracts with the patent or copyright holder and not be afraid that if they step in front of a bus tomorrow, the entire contract becomes worthless.

    • Selling patents or the patents belonging to your employer is just as silly. It is "intellectual property". Either you keep it for yourself or you share it. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
    • by Teun (17872)
      The question is already answered by others, my question would be how the hell this company from a country where software patents are legally impossible has a leg to stand on?
    • by countach (534280)

      I guess for the same reason people can inherit stuff. Why should your kids or wife be rich, just because you were rich? You can make that argument sure. I guess if you work hard for something, you have the right to leave it to your family. Of course, this is a separate argument to whether patents should exist in the first place.

    • by chrismcb (983081)
      It becomes an interesting situation. If I write a book, then give someone else the copyright, does the copyright still end when I die? If not then the older one gets, the quicker one should sign away their rights.
      But why should someone else benefit as soon as I die? If I want to provide for my children, and I'm a cabinet maker, I can make a bunch of cabinets and give to my children, so they can sell after I die. But if I'm an author, and I finish the story the day before I die, my children (or wife) are
  • by fufufang (2603203) on Sunday February 10, 2013 @02:06PM (#42851181)

    I think patent should only cover ideas that are implemented. Under the current system, if you patent some ideas that cannot be implemented now, you essentially stop people in the future from implementing them, until your patent expires. This stifles innovation.

    • by Warhawke (1312723)
      To obtain a patent, you need to be able to reduce it to a practicable description, meaning that you do have to show exactly how the patented device works with enough particularity to make it functional right now. Future patents aren't granted. The idea behind it is that if you figure out how to do it but don't actually do it, you've told other people how to do it by posting the patent, and therefore you deserve royalties from that (which means that implementation isn't stymied, it's just expensive). In p
      • by Shavano (2541114)

        To obtain a patent, you need to be able to reduce it to a practicable description, meaning that you do have to show exactly how the patented device works with enough particularity to make it functional right now. Future patents aren't granted. The idea behind it is that if you figure out how to do it but don't actually do it, you've told other people how to do it by posting the patent, and therefore you deserve royalties from that (which means that implementation isn't stymied, it's just expensive). In practice, what we've done is encourage the development of patent trolls given the free transfer of patent rights like property. This could either be fixed by limiting transfers of patent rights or by requiring a modicum percentage of active use and implementation. To require that you actually practice a patent is unfair, though, because I could not reasonably practice implementation of a novel and revolutionary ion space drive or nuclear reactor even if I could design and perfectly describe it on paper.

        It used to work the way you describe, but not any more. Now reduction to practice is not required by the USPTO.

    • The problem with your idea is that lots of patents are improvements on inventions owned by somebody else.

      You can't implement them without violating their patent.

  • I have written a vague yet extensive theory of how one might use some technical means, as yet undefined, to make some sort of vehicle, also undefined, travel faster than the speed of light. I'm hoping someone will hurry up and violate it soon, as I could really use the money.

  • Hey, I have an idea: lets all crowd-fund patent litigation cases.

    It works as follows:

    - anyone with a patent that looks monetizable starts a cheap one-off company.

    - this company floats an IPO through a crowd-funding offer (see e.g. http://crowdfunding.com/ [crowdfunding.com] ) for, say, $250,000 in which the text of the patent in question is put online plus a target amount of money you propose to raise through licensing

    - if the IPO succeeds in raising the money, $10,000 is used for administrative affairs and the rest g

  • I was mightily confused by the concept of Rembrandt suing Facebook. Weird timeline.
  • Facebook even cited one of Van Der Meer's patents in one of their own filings later on.

    I thought the point of citing someone else's patent in one's patent filing was to show that the method covered in the filing is sufficiently different to award a patent. This legal claim sounds kind of dubious.

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