Deceased Programmer’s Family Sues Facebook Over ‘Like’ Button Patent

By Alex Johnston
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 11, 2013 Last Updated: February 22, 2013
Related articles: United States » National News
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A thumbs up or "like" icon at the Facebook main campus in Menlo Park, California, May 15, 2012. (Robyn Beck/AFP/GettyImages)

A thumbs up or "like" icon at the Facebook main campus in Menlo Park, California, May 15, 2012. (Robyn Beck/AFP/GettyImages)

Facebook has been sued by a patent-holding company over its “like” button and some of its other features that were apparently developed a decade ago by a now-deceased Dutch programmer.

Global law firm Fish & Richardson filed suit against the social media giant over the patent, which is currently held by Rembrandt Social Media LP, according to a news release.

“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 attorney Tom Melsheimer, counsel for Rembrandt and principal of the law firm’s Dallas office, in the release.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Dutch programmer Joannes Jozef “Jos” Everardus van der Meer on Feb. 5, but it was not widely reported until Monday.

Rembrandt owns the patents for a social network, Surfbook, that van der Meer created before he died in 2004, reported the BBC.

“Years before Facebook and AddThis, Jos van der Meer conceived of and patented core aspects of social media,” Rembrandt Chairman Dr. Paul Schneck said in a statement. “The United States patent system is designed to give inventors an exclusive right to practice their inventions.” 

Rembrandt is also suing AddThis, another well-used social bookmarking website.

“Facebook and AddThis are using the ideas disclosed in Jos’ patents without permission or payment,” Schneck added. “Through this litigation, Rembrandt Social Media hopes to recover payment for the unauthorized usage of patents by Facebook and AddThis.”

The BBC reported that van der Meer was granted the patents in 1998, five years before Facebook was around. The complaint stated that Surfbook was a social diary that allowed users to share information with others—and that it used a “like” button.

“Facebook encourages end users to directly infringe by placing the Facebook ‘like button’ on millions of third party websites visited by end users,” the complaint reads. “Facebook encourages end users to use this ‘like’ feature by providing instructions on its website on how to use the ‘like’ button.” 

The other patent that Facebook apparently infringed upon was a “method and apparatus for implementing a web page diary,” which includes Facebook’s “wall” and “timeline,” according to Rembrandt’s press release and the legal complaint.

Facebook had not issued a public statement about the lawsuit as of Monday. It is unclear the amount in damages sought by Rembrandt.

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