The patents are not valid and thus are not infringed by Facebook, were the verdict of the federal jury in a case where the social network was held accused of infringing patents held by a Dutch computer programmer more than a decade ago.
The social media company Facebook had appeared in the civil case against a holding company Rembrandt Social Media. According to Rambrandt, Joannes Van Der Meer the Dutch computer scientist had developed and patented methods for running a web based personal diary way before facebook debuted in 2003, despite the Dutch’s website having failed to materialize.
The Pennsylvania based holding company Rembrandt Social Media deals with licensing and litigation for independent inventors.
Surfbook, as Van Der Meer’s website was called, was tailored to enable users to collect personal information and third party content on the personalized website, and then share the information with a chosen group of friends.
The case that represented Van Der Meer who died in 2004 claimed that Facebook’s timeline, groups, photo sharing services and the newsfeed features were developed based on the idea already patented by the deceased programmer.
Facebook in its defense contended these allegations arguing that its features used a different technology. The company also presented that the said patents did not cover new ideas which subjected them to annulling.
The patents should never have been issued to Van Der Meer, Facebook said, adding that this was because they described methods that would be obvious to people in that industry. The company also argued that Van Der Meer’s company Aduna had waited too long before filing the suit which was filed last year in 2013, close to a decade after Van Der Meer’s death which happened the same year Facebook was founded.
Oftentimes the cases of patent infringement do not make it all the way to a federal jury trial. The social media company had put up a year long fight to prevent the case from getting to a jury. According to analysts, such jury rulings are hardly ever predictable.
Fortunately for Facebook the jury returned a verdict in their favor after a long wait all week long for the civil trial in US District Court, Alexandria, Virginia.
The claimant Rembrandt Social Media had sought a new trial before this verdict was out, with allegations that the District Judge T.S. Ellis presiding over the trial asked their professional witness questions that according to Rembrandt lawyers and officials seriously and unfairly prejudiced Rembrandt in front of the jury. The District Judge however denied this motion.
The case had taken long due to a debate on the witness credibility. The presiding judge stated that the witness by Rembrandt presented flawed argument in calculating damages and so denied the testimony.
The verdict has been met with warm approval by Facebook deputy general counsel Sam O’Rourke who says they are pleased with the decision made by the jury.