Jury verdict favors Facebook in patent infringement case

Whether you're seeking to hold someone liable for patent infringement or defending against a patent infringement claim, it is important that you have a legal professional investigate the patents in question and monitor patent portfolios. With the proper documentation many patent disputes can be resolved outside of court. That wasn't the case, however, in a recent trial involving Facebook and a company representing a now-deceased computer programmer. According to Rembrandt Social Media, which sued Facebook, a Dutch programmer named Joannes Van Der Meer patented the means to operate an online personal diary called Surfbook prior to Facebook's existence.

For about a year, and with great expense, Facebook sought to keep the case out of court, claiming that Van Der Meer never should have been issued the patents in the first place because they failed to describe methods that were new to the trade. Facebook also likely wanted to avoid the uncertain result that comes with a jury trial. Rembrandt Social Media claimed that Van Der Meer's patents covered such Facebook features as the "share" and the "like" buttons. Rembrandt also claimed that Van Der Meer's patents were infringed upon by Facebook technology that quickens web page loading. After several blows to Rembrandt's case, including the judge's decision to bar testimony from the company's expert on potential damages, the jury found in favor of Facebook.

Most other intellectual property claims against Facebook never go to trial. For example, the company settled a dispute in 2008 by paying $65 million to two of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's former college classmates who claimed that they came up with the idea for Facebook.

Often what is important in patent-related cases is the determination of the clarity and definiteness of the patent. Some patents are broadly drafted and ambiguous, and others are definite and enforceable. If you have patent infringement concerns, then our intellectual property overview may prove helpful.

Source: NBC News, "Facebook Beats Surfbook in Patent-Infringement Trial," June 13, 2014

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