Facing yet another legal dispute, Facebook is being sued for patent infringement over its use of, and arguably reliance on, the "like" button. The patent-holding company Rembrandt Social Media claims that the model of the Facebook "like" is predicated on deceased Dutch programmer Mr Van Der Meer's concept for the user-friendly feature, as designed in two patents: U.S. Patent No. 6,415,316 and No. 6,289,362. Tweet the news: Tweet
Filed on February 5, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the complaint outlines that the defendants, Facebook Inc. and AddThis Inc, are both Delaware corporations and have committed acts of infringement in Virginia under Title 35 of the United States Code. Tweet the case: Tweet
Before his death in 2004, Mr Van Der Meer worked on commercializing his patents in the form of a website called "surfbook." The website functions as a personal diary, allowing people to collect personal and third party information and chronologically organize the information to share with a select audience, such as friends and family, with a varied level of privacy settings. To collect information, users would simply click a button on weskits, allowing them to bookmark those pages on their personal diary.
If this sounds familiar, it's because it is, Rembrandt argues in its complaint:
"Although Mark Zuckerburg did not start what became Facebook until 2013, it bears a remarkable resemblance, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation, to the personal web page diary that Van Der Meer had invented years earlier."
It's hard to dispute the importance of the "Like" button to social media, especially Facebook. When a user "likes" something, it then appears on their friends' newsfeed. This not only increases exposure of brand pages and posts, but it associates that brand with a friend or acquaintance.
Directly citing Facebook's support center, the introduction of a "Like" to social networks creates brand awareness based on word of mouth interactions among friends:
"People are influenced by what their friends like and connect to. When someone interacts with your Page, app, or event it creates a story that their friends may see in the news feed." Tweet quote: Tweet
This revolutionizes the way advertisers utilize the digital tools available in marketing strategies, proving the significance of the "Like" button to Facebook's revenue.
"We believe Rembrandt's patents represent an important foundation of social media as we know it, and we expect a judge and jury to reach the same conclusion based on the evidence," said Tom Melsheimer, counsel for Rembrandt and managing principal of Fish & Richardson's Dallas office, PR Newswire reports.
Facebook has yet to respond.
This comes shortly after Facebook settled a class action lawsuit dealing with Facebook's practice of featuring user "Likes" in Sponsored Stories without permission. Marketing data overwhelmingly supports the notion that the social aspect of marketing inherent in Facebook's Sponsored Stories is worth more than traditional advertisements, forcing Facebook to hand over $20 million in settlement fees.