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IP, Patent

Adult Swim Declared In Facebook’s Patent Infringement Pool!

I have a lot of fond memories from childhood.  Well, I have memories from my childhood. Among them were those summer-time trips to the local swimming pool.  Growing up in a small, southern town, the pool was just about the only place one could stand being outdoors most of the time.  And I have fond memories of that pool. We still have the photograph of my brother and I, sitting on our towels eating a snack–with a suspicious hole cut out between us, removing a woman’s leg after she’d walked into the shot.

I still remember the “high dive” … a mere 10-footer, which seemed more like 100 to a five-year old.  Eventually, I earned most of my brothers HotWheels and Star Wars figurine collections when he dared me to jump off.  It would be the last time he dared me to do anything.

And I remember dreading that one long blast from the lifeguard’s whistle followed by the words, “Adult swim!”  It was time for the lifeguard’s to get a break, and for the grown-ups to cool off without dozens of sugared up kids jumping around and splashing them in the face.

If large, publicly traded operating companies are the “grown ups”, then, for the last five years or so Facebook has operated amidst the chaos of dozens of child and adolescent patent owners (individuals, small businesses and NPEs) diving and splashing into the pool of cash, filled to the brim by the use of technology belonging to others. But suddenly, as Facebook’s IPO grew, it’s as if the lifeguards felt it was time for that long blast of the whistle, and just like that, it’s “adult swim” time at Facebook.

Of course, you already know about Yahoo, making good on its previous threats to jump into the water and levying a respectable 10-patent lawsuit against Facebook last week.  This week, the hype is likely to be all about Mitel, the publicly traded communications company, which happens to own, of all things, a patent on an automatic web page generator (US Patent 5,940,834).  Claim 1 of the ‘834 (filed in 1997) follows:

1. A method for automatic generation of a web page organizational directory comprising:
a) creating and saving a member web page template and parent web page template each containing fields for storing specific information;
b) inputting member information into a directory database for each of a plurality of members;
c) retrieving said member web page template and said member information from said database;
d) for each of said plurality of members, replacing said fields in said member web page template with said member information and saving said member web page template with said fields replaced with said member information as a member specific web page;
e) retrieving said parent web page template;
f) for each member in said database, inserting said member information regarding each said member from said database into said fields of said parent web page template and creating links to associate each member whose member information has been inserted into said fields of said parent web page template to said member specific web page to create a new parent web page; and
g) posting each said member specific web page and said parent web page to a web server.

Mitel also holds a patent on certain “pro-active” telephony features (US Patent 7,292,685).  Claim 1:

1. A system for pro-actively suggesting communication features to users, comprising:
a tuple space stored on a computer-readable media embodying instructions for facilitating collaboration among software agents;
a plurality of device agents stored on respective computer-readable media embodying instructions for controlling operation of associated communication devices for respective ones of said users; and
a plurality of user agents representing a plurality of users, each of said user agents stored on respective computer-readable media embodying instructions (i) facilitating creation, by a user desirous of communicating, of groups of users to be communicated with, (ii) poking tuples to said tuple space indicative of each user’s availability for communication; (iii) peeking anti-tuples to said tuple space for eliciting communication availability of respective ones of said users in said groups of users to be communicated with and in response causing associated device agents to display via respective ones of said devices said availability to said user desirous of communicating, and to effect communication between said user desirous of communicating and a selected one of said respective users who is indicated as being available for communication.

Mitel first warned Facebook of its impending dive last July, according to the complaint (embedded below), sending letters on July 14 and again on September 16, 2011.  Facebook failed to respond to either letter, according to Mitel.  So on March 16th, Mitel took action Facebook will not be able to ignore, filing a lawsuit in the patent-savvy Delaware courts, with Fish & Richardson, including DC-area litigator Ruffin Cordell, listed as counsel for Mitel.

Of course, unlike an actual “adult swim,” no one kicked the other patent owners out of the pool yet.  With summer around the corner, litigators will likely stay very busy with Facebook alone . . .

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One thought on “Adult Swim Declared In Facebook’s Patent Infringement Pool!

  1. Great post, useful information on patents and their use from giant companies.

    Posted by Johnny | April 16, 2012, 3:23 am

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