Yahoo Patents in Facebook Patent Infringement Case

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There’s been some chattering on the Web recently that Yahoo! might pursue a patent infringement case. If true, I suspected that the Overture patents on Advertising might be part of any case brought. Looks like I was right in thinking so.

Earlier today, AllThingsD published a fairly detailed post titled Yahoo Sues Facebook for Patent Infringement, Which Social Network Calls “Puzzling” (Including Filing) which tells us about the some of the history, implications, and reactions to a legal complaint filed earlier today which lists 10 patents that Yahoo! claims Facebook is infringing upon. The article includes a copy of the complaint which listed the patent numbers involved, and specific claims based upon each of those patents.

The patents included Overture’s advertising patents as well as Yahoo! patents on advertising, social networking, customization, privacy, and messaging.

After reading through the complaint, I wanted to take a look at the patents and share them. What implications does this patent infringement case have for Facebook, not only focusing upon advertising, but also upon acting as a social network? Here are the patents involved in the case:

Advertising Patents

Overture had initiated a patent infringement lawsuit against Google over Google’s Adwords before Yahoo! acquired Overture and its patents. Google settled with Yahoo in August of 2004. The placement of those ads depend upon click-through rates and advertiser bids. Do Facebook ads infringe upon these patents?

Yahoo! also was granted a patent that provides approaches to identify click fraud, which is included in this suit as well.

Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage
Invented by Charles McElfresh, Paul Mineiro, and Michael Radford
Assigned to Overture Services, Inc.
US Patent 6,907,566
Granted June 14, 2005
Filed: April 2, 1999

Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage
Invented by Charles McElfresh, Paul Mineiro, and Michael Radford
Assigned to Overture Services, Inc.
US Patent 7,100,111
Granted August 29, 2006
Filed: February 14, 2003

Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage
Invented by Charles McElfresh, Paul Mineiro, and Michael Radford
Assigned to Overture Services, Inc.
US Patent 7,373,599
Granted May 13, 2008
Filed: February 14, 2003


A method and system for placement of graphical objects on a page to optimize the occurrence of an event associated with such objects. The graphical objects might include, for instance, advertisements on a webpage, and the event would include a user clicking on that ad. The page includes positions for receipt of the object material.

Data regarding the past performance of the objects is stored and updated as new data is received. A user requests a page from a server associated with system. The server uses the performance data to derive a prioritized arrangement of the objects on the page. The server performs a calculation regarding the likelihood that an event will occur for a given object, as displayed to a particular user.

The objects are arranged according to this calculation and returned to the user on the requested page. The likelihood can also be multiplied by a weighting factor and the objects arranged according to this product.

System and method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network
Invented by Doliov Steven
Assigned to Yahoo!
US Patent 7,668,861
Granted February 23, 2010
Filed: September 20, 2007


A system and method are disclosed for classifying a user interaction on a network. A user interaction is identified on a network and user interaction data is collected relating to the user interaction on the network.

The user interaction data includes an aggregate measure data and a unique feature data. The user interaction data is processed to generate a value score for the interaction. A classification of the user interaction is determined based on the value score.

Privacy Patents

Privacy controls have become a big part of how Facebook works, with limited views of content and profiles for users based upon user defined criteria. Is Facebook infringing upon processes that Yahoo first defined?

Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user
Invented by Mark Everett Hull, F. Randall Farmer, and Ellen Sue Perelman
Assigned to Yahoo!
US Patent 7,269,590
Granted September 11, 2007
Filed: April 26, 2004


A method, apparatus, and system are directed towards managing a view of a social network user’s personal information based, in part, on user-defined criteria. The user-defined criteria may be applied towards a user’s relationship with each prospective viewer. The user-defined criteria may include degrees of separation between members of the social network, a relationship to the prospective viewer, as well as criteria based, in part, on activities, such as dating, employment, hobbies, and the like.

The user-defined criteria may also be based on a group membership, a strength of a relationship, and the like. Such user-defined relationship criteria may then be mapped against various categories of information associated with social network user to provide customized views of the social network user.

Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user’s authorization level
Invented by Michael La Rotonda, Neal Sample, Paul Brody, Ellen Sue Perelman, and Ericson DeJesus
Assigned to Yahoo!
US Patent 7,599,935
Granted October 6, 2009
Filed: December 20, 2005


Enabling a first user to preview content as it would be seen by a second user, if the second user had a selected user relationship with the first user. The selected user relationship may include a relationship degree, a relationship category, a relationship rating, and/or other form of relationship. In one embodiment, a user interface enables the first user to assign user relationships to portions of content and to other users.

The first user selects a user relationship, which is used to access those portions of content that are associated with the first user and assigned the selected user relationship. The corresponding portions of content are used to generate a preview display for the first user, illustrating the portions of content that would be accessible to other users assigned the same user relationship or assigned a closer user relationship. Preview may be generated by a server or a local client.

Customization Patents

Do the Facebook Newsfeed and the Facebook Wall infringe upon these patents? The Yahoo complaint says they do.

Online playback system with community bias
Invented by Jeffrey Boulter, Todd Beaupre, and John-Paul Veilleux
Assigned to Yahoo!
US Patent 7,454,509
Granted November 18, 2008
Filed: July 10, 2001


A method for entertaining individuals according to a community having similar tastes. Information derived from user accounts form the basis of a community and collateral preferences allow other subscribing individuals to enjoy the benefit of wider-ranging tastes according to the preferences expressed by the other members of the community.

Additionally, assuming that individuals sharing one preference in common may be likely to share others, the present method allows those who choose to listen to the “fan station” the ability to enjoy similar music or other data streams according to preferences expressed by the fan community as a whole.

Dynamic page generator
Invented by Farzad Nazem and Ashvinkumar P Patel
Assigned to Yahoo!
US Patent 5,983,227
Granted November 9, 1999
Filed: June 12, 1997


An custom page server is provided with user preferences organized into templates stored in compact data structures and the live data used to fill the templates stored local to the page server which is handing user requests for custom pages. One process is executed on the page server for every request. The process is provided a user template for the user making the request, where the user template is either generated from user preferences or retrieved from a cache of recently used user templates. Each user process is provided access to a large region of shared memory which contains all of the live data needed to fill any user template.

Typically, the pages served are news pages, giving the user a custom selection of stock quotes, news headlines, sports scores, weather, and the like. With the live data stored in a local, shared memory, any custom page can be built within the page server, eliminating the need to make requests from other servers for portions of the live data. While the shared memory might include RAM (random access memory) and disk storage, in many computer systems, it is faster to store all the live data in RAM.

Social Networking Patent

The claim here is that Facebook Pages and Facebook Groups have infringed upon this patent.

World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities

Invented by Reiner Kraft, Farzin Maghoul, and Kenneth G. Perluss
Assignee: Yahoo! Inc.
US Patent 7,747,648
Granted June 29, 2010
Filed: February 14, 2005


Systems and methods for information retrieval and communication employ a world model. The world model is made up of interrelated entity models, each of which corresponds to an entity in the real world, such as a person, place, business, other tangible thing, community, event, or thought.

Each entity model provides a communication channel via which a user can contact a real-world person responsible for that entity model. Entity models also provide feedback information, enabling users to easily share their experiences and opinions of the corresponding real-world entity.

Messaging Patent

This patent involves a way for someone using instant messenger to exchange messages with someone using email.

System and method for instant messaging using an e-mail protocol
Invented by Christopher T. Szeto, Henri Torgemane, and Thyagarajapuram Swaminathan Ramakrishnan
Assigned to Yahoo!
US Patent 7,406,501
Granted July 29, 2008
Filed: June 30, 2003


Systems and methods allowing an instant messaging user to exchange messages with an e-mail user. To the instant messaging user, the experience is a seamless exchange of instant messages; to the e-mail user, the experience is a seamless exchange of e-mail messages.

Conversion of an instant message to an e-mail message includes insertion of a token into the e-mail message, and conversion of an e-mail message to an instant message includes validating a token extracted from the e-mail message.

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17 thoughts on “Yahoo Patents in Facebook Patent Infringement Case”

  1. At some point, there would be trouble between Facebook and another big company. Facebook uses a lot of advertising and now Yahoo feels like they have a case against facebook. There were even privacy patents. Wow.

  2. Will be interesting to see what the outcome would be if Yahoo does move forward with an infringement case – would it be big payout time?

  3. Thanks for putting the list together for us Bill. This is the one on the list that jumped out at me: “Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user’s authorization level”. I have to believe that this is prior art in that there were social networks in place at this time (2005) such as (dating social network) that blocked user information from access to 3rd parties unless the user granted the 3rd party access. Yahoo is throwing everything it has up against the wall. Should be interesting.

  4. Cant wait to see how this one works out. Could this be a game changing event for Facebook, maybe the see the rise of Yahoo. Or perhaps Google will work out an angle to jump in and take advantage of any fall out?

  5. Another Gem Bill. Is this a last gasp or a Hail Mary by Yahoo? If nothing else it brings them into the conversation.

  6. Yahoo does not know how to become profitable, and the new direction seems to assert its patents … Why not? Others have done before them, but it’s not a long term vision.

  7. That’s a great research work Bill. I am happy with patience of Yahoo!

    I personally feel that Yahoo! has been very very clever and it took a extreme sharp step. It kept Facebook in a conception by remaining quiet all these days, but as Facebook IPO release date is getting closer, it planned to sue Z’berg and his website. It is a strategic step, very well planned. It followed the quote which goes like this, “Strike while iron is hot”.

  8. Hi Richard,

    Yahoo did get Google to settle with them in their patent infringement case years ago over the advertising patents. It’s possible they might see a similar result with Facebook, which might yield the company a fair amount of stock as Facebook goes public.

  9. Hi jjray7,

    You’re welcome. I suspect that as this case goes forward, the judge overseeing it might actually limit the amount of claims in the infringement action, and may even throw a few away, not because they might be invalid, but rather because the litigation might drag on for years otherwise. In the ongoing case between Oracle and Google, the judge involved in that case limited the number of patent claims that were being litigated at by a pretty big amount.

  10. Hi Gaz,

    Facebook did amend one of the financial statements that they had filed with the SEC a few days ago stating that this lawsuit could have a large impact upon Facebook’s future. Not sure how much the lawsuit might help Yahoo if they are successful, or even if the litigation potentially provides an opportunity for Google.

  11. Hi Dave,

    It’s seems like a Hail Mary on Yahoo’s part. I say that because I saw some recent rumors published stating that Yahoo might be trying to sell off some of its advertising technology.

  12. I wonder what Mark Cuban thinks about this after his tirade on Shark Tank the other night? But I digress just because you patent something does not mean it is a defensible patent. But I guess that is what trials are for.

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  14. Hi Lara,

    I looked these patents up because I was curious about what they might contain. I missed the Shark Tank episode that you’re writing about, but from my recollection, Mark Cuban made a lot of money selling some questionable intellectual property to Yahoo.

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