Aging web titan Yahoo has been having a tough time lately. After previous CEO Carol Bartz was fired over the phone last September, new CEO Scott Thompson promised in January: “We’ll be back to innovation, we’ll be back to disruptive concepts.”
It seems that their big disruptive concept is to disrupt Facbeook‘s upcoming IPO.
Yahoo announced yesterday that it’s filing a lawsuit against Facebook for infringing on patents the company has acquired over the years, most notably a patent granted in 2010 that appears to cover the concept of social networking. New York Times notes the patent in question is “’648 patent, ‘World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities.’ Granted 2010.”
Yahoo claims Facebook has been violating patents in other areas of online interaction in addition to social networking, including advertising, privacy, customization, and messaging.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been sued by a company claiming to have invented social networking that no one has ever used as a social network. In 2010 the Boston Phoenix sued Facebook over a patent it claimed grants it domain over all web social networking. Facebook in turn countersued, and, well, it obviously didn’t slow Facebook down at all.
But Yahoo is a much bigger company than the Boston Phoenix and has the ability to spend much more in litigation. Since Facebook obviously doesn’t want a big lawsuit hanging over its head when it goes public, Yahoo is probably betting that the company will be motivated to settle quickly, giving Yahoo a cash injection it badly needs.
What’s even more insane is that Yahoo has been partnering with Facebook to incorporate Facebook’s news feed updates into its sites, a strategy that “bolster[ed] Yahoo’s traffic from Facebook users by about 300 percent from September to December alone,” writes the Times.
That partnership will most likely dissolve now. It almost seems like Yahoo has all but given up actually trying to be a productive web company, and is making a last cash grab before throwing in the towel altogether. The Times writes, “Yahoo is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, and further requests that any such amount be tripled ‘in view of the willful and deliberate nature of the infringement.’”
Yahoo sounds like a company with nothing left to lose. Especially for a partner, that’s just bonkers.