Scintilla – a flash, a spark, an iota. Shorthand for creativity and an indicator of inventiveness under Australian law.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rembrandts in the attic?

By Partner Chris Bird

A patent-holding company, Rembrandt Social Media, working with the family of a Dutch computer programmer, has sued Facebook for infringing two US patents relating to an 'online diary' program, asking for unspecified royalties. The complaint was lodged in the Eastern District of Virginia, one of the fastest patent dockets in the country.

According to the complaint filed, Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer was a pioneer in the development of user-friendly web technologies, and created the concept of a diary on the Internet. Van Der Meer passed away in June 2004, before he could commercialise his 'Surfbook' ideas, shortly after Facebook appeared on the scene.

In addition to the similarities between the functional methodology, one of the patents specifically describes and claims powering the system by advertising revenue, reflecting the way Facebook's business model has indeed developed. Further, the complaint argues that one of the patents covers the idea of allowing moving of third-party content from other websites to its own via a 'share' or 'like' button, just as Facebook does.

US infringement suits filed against big companies in Internet or software industries by non-practising patent holding companies are now very common. Fish & Richardson, the firm which filed the suit, claims that Rembrandt is committed to finding independent inventors with a compelling story to tell, and a patent which is central to some widely used technology.

Founded in 2004, Rembrandt has been a very successful patent-holding company. In 2008 it secured a $41 million verdict from Ciba Vision around silicon hydrogel contact lenses. In the same year, Rembrandt claimed to have patent rights on both the digital TV broadcasting standard and the widely used cable modem standard, DOCSIS.

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