In a previous post we reported on the internet buzz surrounding the issuance to Facebook of U.S. Patent No. 7,669,123, entitled “Dynamically Providing a News Feed About a User of a Social Network.” Many users were outraged that the patent system would allow businesses to register such patents. You can read our analysis here.
Facebook has certainly continued to legally enforce its patents, and last November it filed suit against Phoenix Media, a Boston-based alternative newspaper publisher, for infringing one of its database search patents. The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent Number 6,199,157, which covers a system for configuring an item such as a machine that can have a multitude of optional components. Facebook claimed that Phoenix Media infringed the patent by operating websites that allowed users to search for information by filtering data according to multiple criteria.
Last Friday, July 29th, 2011, Phoenix Media asked a Massachusetts federal court for summary judgment in the case, arguing that the '157 patent is invalid. According to Phoenix, the technology claimed by the patent was widely in use when the patent application was filed in 1998. According to Phoenix's motion, "...at least in the area of database searching (the field at issue in this case), such methods are anything but novel. The prior art shows they were known and in use long before the application." Phoenix cites several articles that described similar systems before the application for the Facebook patent was filed, including one from 1996 discussing features of then-popular search engines AltaVista and Lycos Inc.
Since this isn't strictly a video game patent case, we won't follow it further, but if you'd like to learn more, visit Law360.