Los Angeles – In a surprising turn of events, social networking giant Facebook is being sued for its use of the famed ‘Like’ button, by the family of a deceased Dutch programmer Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer in 1998, who held two patents dealing with sharing and updating social media content five years before Facebook’s launch.
Quite surprisingly, Joannes Jozef has been dead for more than 8 years and, according to reports from BBC, a business firm known as Rembrandt Social Media holds the patents on behalf of Joannes Jozef and has argued that the Facebook “Like” button bears a remarkable resemblance to what is described in patents of Joannes Jozef, which is “an important foundation of social media as we know it”, says Rembrandt Social Media.
The company further claims that Facebook’s success is owed, at least in part, it argues that Joannes Jozef created a social diary service he called Surfboard and was awarded the patents in 1998. A critical element in the lawsuit is Rembrandt Social Media’s claim about Facebook knowing the patents to be of Joannes Jozef as they made reference to them in Facebook’s own patent application.
The suit, registered Feb. 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, also names AddThis, another social bookmarking services that was an early associate of Facebook. The lawsuit alleges Facebook’s “Like” button and other content-sharing features infringe on the patents.
Anyways, the patents under discussion were granted in 2001 and 2002 to Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer, a computer scientist. Van Der Meer, who passed away in 2004 had booked the domain name “surfbook.com” for what he termed a “personal diary” system, according to the lawsuit.
Rembrandt Social Media – the current patent holder – is seeking legal action against Facebook, as well as its early partner AddThis, for using the patents without permission.
“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,” attorney Tom Melsheimer, counsel for Rembrandt, said in a statement.
Of course, the social network leader declined to comment, but a lawyer for Rembrandt, which owns the patents, said that the patents “represent an important foundation of social media.”
Van Der Meer, who was awarded the patents in 1998, formed his own (unsuccessful) social network: Surfbook, a “social diary” that, according to Rembrandt’s attorneys, allowed people to share information and approve data with a Like button. He died, however, in June 2004. Since then, his widow and family have pursued compensation for his inventions, the lawsuit said.
“Although Mark Zuckerberg did not start what became Facebook until 2003, 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,” the lawsuit states.
Admittedly, Facebook’s “Like” button is ubiquitous across content providers outside of the social network and used to drive traffic to their sites.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit seeks damages along with interest and court costs. It suggests the damages award should be trebled since it alleges the infringement of the patents is willful. The law firm Fish and Richardson is representing Rembrandt Social Media, a company that represents Van Der Meer’s family’s interests.