Facebook is no stranger to lawsuits. And now they’re being slapped with two more, for allegedly infringing the patents of Japanese company Mekiki and Phoenix Media/Communications, publisher of the Boston Phoenix. Both allege that Facebook’s core social networking capabilities violate their patents.
Mekiki, owners of the Japanese social networking site SamuraiTime.com contends that they have three patents on adding friends of friends as contacts on a social network. The patents, one granted in 2005 and two granted this year, are for a “human relationships registering system.” They’re seeking an injunction to stop Facebook from using their technology.
Tele-Publishing, a subsidiary of Phoenix Media, has an even older—and potentially even more devastating—patent they claim Facebook is infringing on. Filed in 2001, the patent allegedly covers a “computer network and method of creating and sharing a personal page” securely.
Facebook commented on the Phoenix case to TechCrunch, to say that it’s “without merit and will be fought vigorously,” and declined to comment on the Mekiki case.
If these cases have legal merit, either of them could undermine the basis of Facebook’s system (especially the Phoenix case). If the courts uphold Phoenix’s patent claim, Facebook—and all other websites—could no longer allow people to create a profile and share it securely with their friends. (Finding new friends through mutual friends might become harder if Mekiki wins.)
What do you think? Is there any merit to the cases? Does Facebook have anything to worry about?