Here are the 10 patents Yahoo is using to sue Facebook (and what they really mean)

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With Facebook getting ready for its IPO, Yahoo has decided to sue over patent infringement. Yahoo used the same tactic against Google in the run up to their IPO, pocketing a helping of the search engine’s pre-IPO shares.

Yahoo’s new CEO, Scott Thompson, is reportedly the one driving this aggressive strategy, with many of the company’s long time tech staff opposed to this aggressive use of Yahoo’s patent portfolio.

Prominent thought leaders in the tech world are also upset. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson wrote on his blog this morning, “The patents that Yahoo! is suing Facebook over are a crock of shit. None of them represent unique and new ideas at the time of the filing. I suspect they all can be thrown out over prior art if Facebook takes the time and effort to do that.”

We’ve broken out the 10 patents at issue in the lawsuit below, along with our best efforts at a translation into plain english. Lawyers and IP folks, let us know in the comments if we’ve got anything wrong.

US Patent 7599935  Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user’s authorization level (Filed 2005, Issued 2009)

Translation: A way to preview the stuff you will be sharing with friends.

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.

US Patent 5983227 Dynamic Page Generator  (Filed 1997, Issued 1999)

Translation: A way to produce a customized homepage without to much strain on your servers.

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.

US Patent 7454509 Online playback system with community bias  (Filed 2001, Issued 2008)

Translation: A web radio station that learns your friends tastes.

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.

US Patent 7747648 World modeling using a relationship network with communication channels to entities (Filed 2005, Issued 2010)

Translation: A way to connect different kinds of pages (events, friends, fans) and allow them all to message one another.

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.

US Patent 7406501 System and method for instant messaging using an e-mail protocol (Filed 2003, Issued 2008)

Translation: Sending an instant message. No seriously, that’s it.

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.

US Patent 6907566 US Patent 7100111 and US Patent 7373599  Method and system for optimum placement of advertisements on a webpage (Filed 1999, Issued 2005)

Translation: Customizing the placement of ads based on users behavior.

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

US Patent 7668861 System and method to determine the validity of an interaction on a network (Filed 2007, Issued 2010)

Translation: A way to assign a value in order to screen for bad behavior or spam.

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.

US Patent 7269590 Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user(Filed 2004, Issued 2007)

Translation: Setting your profile so that is displays on certain info to certain friends.

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.

h/t Paid Content and CNET

Image via Flickr user Yodel Anecdotal


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