11.11.10

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Facebook is Now Officially a Patent Bully

Posted in Patents at 2:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Incredible Hulk and Facebook

Summary: Facebook’s aggression — including lawsuits against far smaller rivals — carries on despite Facebook’s growth

Facebook, which is partly owned by Microsoft and in many different ways empowers Microsoft’s monopoly, keeps showing why it’s a malicious company* (e.g. using information without permission as Facebook’s nearly entire business model** is based on feeding nosy people). As we demonstrated in previous posts, in recent years Facebook has been collecting software patents and it’s indicative of paranoia among companies that are about to collapse. We wrote many posts which were warning about Facebook’s practices but especially its patents and the relationship between the founder and the world’s latest patent troll. As the old saying goes, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A lot of people give a badly-behaving company a lot of power it oughtn’t have.

Facebook was seen bullying with trademarks a few weeks ago and given the increasing scale of Facebook (and increasing growth), it ought to worry. For a growing company to also be a bully is a sign of infinite arrogance and now we find that Facebook is also attacking rivals using patents (so we know that the portfolio is not for “defensive” purposes):

Facebook Inc., the world’s biggest social-networking website, accused the owner of the Boston Phoenix newspaper and WFNX radio station of infringing two patents related to ways to manage information online.

Facebook filed the complaint today in federal court in Boston against Phoenix Media/Communications Group Inc. and its People2People Group, Tele-Publishing and FNX Broadcasting units. The allegations were made in response to a patent-infringement lawsuit Tele-Publishing filed last year against Palo Alto, California-based Facebook.

Why would people want to give personal data to such a repulsive company that also censors? We recommend Identi.ca and GNU Social until Diaspora makes its case.
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* It’s really quite apt that they are connected to Microsoft, as Facebook is one of the least ethical companies out there (since its early days), especially among those who rose to power in recent years.

** That tends to change over time, with elements like games contributing through other avenues.

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7 Comments

  1. Patrick said,

    November 11, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Gravatar

    Facebook attacking its opponents with acquired patents certainly is an interesting tactic. While I suspect its more about leverage in the current lawsuit than anything else, the aggressive strategy will be noticed by many others I’m sure.

  2. TemporalBeing said,

    November 11, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Gravatar

    While I agree on the patent issue, you have to be fair to everyone regarding Trademarks – if you don’t protect them, you lose them. So FB is forced to litigate over Trademarks – by law – if negotiations break down, or the other party won’t negotiate or listen. Only a court can truly say if the offending party is not-offending – e.g. it’s using it in a real other than what the Trademark was registered for by the owning party.

    IANAL, but that is my understanding of Trademark law – however correct or incorrect it may be.

    Patrick Reply:

    TemporalBeing,

    You are more or less correct on trademark law. The rule is use-it-or-lose-it.

    However, I don’t necessarily agree that a trademark owner is “forced to litigate” in every situation, despite the owners frequently claiming as much. I mentioned this a little bit in my post about trademark bullies. http://gametimeip.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/bullying-grown-up-sort-of/

    Also, trademark law allows owners to protect against “tarnishment” and “dilution” in addition to consumer confusion. The former leads some owners to use trademarks in an attempt to squash criticism (although I’m not saying FB has or hasn’t done this).

    Incidentally, what you say about only a court being able to truly say whether the offending party is/is not offending is also true of patent cases.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The issue is that Facebook claims to own the words “face” and “book” and here is just one example among several (more in TechDirt for starters):

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2371393,00.asp?kc=PCRSS05079TX1K0000993

    twitter Reply:

    I suppose they also think they own facepalm and faceplant.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Mike Rowe found out his name is not his.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_vs_MikeRoweSoft

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