Facebook Accused of Infringing Patents with “Like” Button

February 7, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Orange County – Facebook Inc. has been hit with a lawsuit claiming that the website’s “Like” button and other features that allow users to share third-party content on personal pages infringe patents that were owned by a Dutch computer programmer, who died before he could launch his own social networking website.

The lawsuit, filed by Rembrandt Social Media LP in Virginia on Monday, targets Facebook in addition to the social medial bookmarking service AddThis, Inc.  Virginia-based AddThis is among the world’s largest social bookmarking services and partnered with Facebook to implement the sharing features in question.

The complaint alleges that Facebook is infringing patented technology developed by Joannes Jozef Everardus van der Meer.  Before his death in 2004, van der Meer had planned to incorporate his patented technology for a personal online diary into a social networking website.  Van der Meer had registered the domain name www.surfbook.com for this purpose.

After his death, van der Meer’s family assigned his patents to Rembrandt.  His family hoped that Rembrandt would be able to use his inventions in its social media websites and that van der Meer would get credit for his inventions.

When Facebook introduced the “Like” button in February 2009, it allowed users to place content from a third party on a personal page for their friends to view.   The “Like” button became one of Facebook’s most iconic features almost instantly.

In the complaint, Rembrandt claims Facebook is infringing two registered U.S. patents assigned to it titled “System and method for generating transferring and using an annotated universal address” and “Method and apparatus for implementing a Web page diary.”

In addition to the “Like” button, the complaint claims that nearly all aspects of the Facebook website were taken from van der Meer’s patents, including using advertising on personal diary pages in order to turn a profit.

“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 complaint said.

Founded in 2004, Facebook is the world’s largest social media network.  At the close of last year, the website had more than 1 billion active users worldwide.