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Might Facebook, Yahoo reconcile in patent infringement dispute?

Back in March, Yahoo sued Facebook, alleging that the social media site had infringed on some patents that the search engine owns.

Many who watched this clash of the Silicon Valley titans whispered that it seemed like Yahoo had "weaponized" its patents, a term that means a patent-holder had filed patents for the sole purpose of later using them to sue competitors and extort money from them. Yahoo denied the weaponization charges, but many were still skeptical. After all, Yahoo filed the patent infringement claim not long before Facebook was going to public. Although Facebook's IPO landed with a resounding thud, at that time, Facebook had a strong incentive to suppress any bad news (like a patent infringement claim) so as not to rile up investors.

When Facebook filed a counterclaim, alleging that it was actually Yahoo that was infringing on 10 different patents owned by Facebook, public sympathy started to swing back towards Yahoo. Eight of the 10 patents Facebook said Yahoo infringed upon had been acquired by Facebook either just as the lawsuit was being filed or after it was filed. Was this counterclaim by Facebook just vindictive?

Now, it seems like there is a good chance this all might be smoothed over. The two parties have recently begun settlement negotiations. If they are able to reach an agreement, Yahoo might withdraw its suit.

Regardless of how this story ends, it should show Sacramento readers that patents, like all other intellectual property assets, are increasingly vital and need to be protected.

Source: PC World, "Yahoo, Facebook Trying to Resolve Patent Dispute," John Ribeiro, June 21, 2012

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