Facebook Sees More Lawsuits Ahead

Facebook’s lawyers must be seeing dollar signs everywhere, with the billable hours they can charge for defending their popular client over the next few months. Last Friday, communications solutions provider Mitel filed a lawsuit with the US District Court of Delaware against the soon-to-be-public social networking giant.

Yahoo, Mitel sue Facebook for patent infringement

Mitel joins Yahoo in the litigation campaign against IPO applicant Facebook. AOL and Compass Labs seem to want to join the fray as well. (Image: Facebook, Yahoo, Mitel, AOL, Compass Labs)

Round One: Facebook vs Yahoo

Yahoo filed a patent infringement suit Monday last week for Facebook’s unlawful use of their advertising, privacy, customization, social networking and messaging patents.

Yahoo wants Facebook to pay triple damages and all of Yahoo’s legal costs, and for Facebook to stop infringing on Yahoo’s patents.

Round Two: Facebook vs Mitel

In its lawsuit, Mitel claims Facebook infringed on two of its patents:

US Patent No. 5,940,834 “Automatic Web Page Generator.”
“Provides for automatic web page creation of an organizational directory for use in an Internet and Intranet environment.”
US Patent No. 7,292,685 “Pro-Active Features for Telephony.”
“A system is provided for pro-actively suggesting communication features to users.”

Mitel said Facebook knew of the existence of their patent as early as July 11, 2011, because Mitel informed Facebook in a letter. Facebook did not respond to this letter, so Mitel sent another one on September 16 that same year, offering “licensing arrangements” on the patent.

I guess Facebook clicked the “Ignore” button on Mitel — to their detriment. Mitel is seeking compensation for damages.

Adequate to compensate for the infringement, pre- and post-judgment interest as allowed by law, costs, and all other damages permitted… including enhanced damages as a result of Facebook’s willful infringement. An accounting for any infringing sales not presented at trial and awarding Mitel additional damages for any such infringing sales.

Round 3: Facebook vs Compass Labs or AOL?

Two more players are potentially following suit: Social media advertising provider Compass Labs and Internet services and media giant AOL.

Compass Labs filed a patent for “User Interest Analysis Systems and Methods” (USPA 20120066073) last March 15. This seems geared for claiming ownership to Facebook’s user interest tracking.

AOL holds a lot of patents (around 800), and plans to use them strategically. AOL added one more patent last Thursday by applying for “Indicating Recent Content Publication Activity by a User” patent (USPA 20120066340). This seems to target Facebook’s user activity tracking and reporting feature.

CEO Tim Armstrong talked about the importance of AOL’s numerous patents and his plans for using them as part of the company’s portfolio.

(AOL’s patents) could produce in excess of $1 billion of licensing income if appropriately harvested and monetized.

AOL is no stranger to litigation (or humiliation), after their research department leaked user logs and search keywords in 2006 and got slapped with a class-action suit.