More on the Yahoo Facebook Matter

March 13, 2012

I posted a comment about the Reuters’ take on the Yahoo matter. To Reuters’ credit, the reporter connected Yahoo’s action against Google with Yahoo’s action toward Facebook. The Reuters’ story included the fact that Yahoo was using the same legal team.

I just read “Yahoo Sues Facebook for Patent Infringement, Which Social Network Calls “Puzzling” (Including Filing).” The most useful part of the write up was the direct link to the legal “complaint”.

I wanted to capture my thoughts before my short attention span moves forward:

First, the four Yahoo patents which I find interesting are:

  • US6907566, “Method and System for Optimum Placement of Advertisements on a Webpage,” June 14, 2005, filed April 2, 1999. An Overture invention.
  • US7100111, “Method and System for Optimum Placement of Advertisements on a Webpage,” August 29, 2006, filed February 14, 2003. An Overture invention.
  • US7373599, “Method and System for Optimum Placement of Advertisements on a Webpage,” May 13, 2008, filed February 14, 2003. An Overture invention.
  • US7668861, “System and Method to Determine the Validity of an Interaction on a Network,” February 23, 2010, filed September 20, 2007. A Yahoo invention.

The Overture inventions are quite interesting, and I think embrace some approaches which those younger than I assume are “textbook” recipes. Overture was ahead of the pay for placement and online advertising surge. In fact, when I learned about pay for placement, I was quite annoyed. The shift marked the end of precision, recall, and “traditional” assumptions about what results would match a search query. I was correct. Search results in the ad-supported arena are and seem likely to remain unsatisfactory for me. The Yahoo invention was added to the Overture patents in order to show that Yahoo is really a leader in online. I think the company’s trajectory over between 2002 to the present suggests that it is a on a path that tracks below my benchmarks for online success.

Second, the Yahoo filing resonates with the theme of “The Way We Were”. Poignant, bittersweet, and just plain bitter. Here’s the passage I noted from page 4 of the complaint:

Yahoo’s research and development has only grown since its inception. Since 1=997, Yahoo has filed thousands of applications for patens on innovative computing technologies that it has developed. Every year, Yahoo spends hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development so that it can offer its users the most innovative products.

As I have noted in my writings about Yahoo, the company has had some good ideas, but it has not been able to capitalize on them. In search, Yahoo lost out to Google. In pictures, Yahoo is facing threats from Google and Pinterest. In social, Yahoo, like Google, is eating fumes and road grit from Facebook’s diesel party bus.

Third, Yahoo wants more than money. Yahoo wants respect. Here’s the passage I found amusing despite the seriousness of the complaint:

Yahoo is harmed by Facebook’s use of Yahoo’s patented technologies in a way that cannot be compensated for by repayment of a royalty alone.

When I read this sentence, I wanted to pick up my red pencil and add, “Yahoo demands respect.”

I am not a legal eagle. Legal eagles frighten me whether flying alone or in Facebook formation.I think that Yahoo can sue if it wishes. I have been around too long and sufficiently close to some legal hassles to know that predicting the outcome of intellectual property and patent disputes is more difficult than getting the winner of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament right on the Courier Journal’s bracket page. Come to think of it, there will be as many players in this legal matter as there are teams in the NCAA tournament. I don’t even want a scorecard.

Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2012

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