March 13th, 2012

Upcoming and downfalling: Portland’s Andy Baio on the Yahoo! Facebook patent suit


Upcoming and downfalling: Portland’s Andy Baio on the Yahoo! Facebook patent suit
One would think that the big tech news this week would be SXSW, but Yahoo! had other ideas. You see, Yahoo! has filed a "puzzling" patent suit against Facebook. Now, there are any number of folks out there who will highlight this as a pretty boneheaded move. Or "a crock of shit." But they're all observing the situation. Portland's Andy Baio---whose company Upcoming was acquired by Yahoo! in 2005---has a more hands-on perspective. "None of the patents I co-invented are cited in the Yahoo complaint," writes Andy. "But a handful of applications I worked on with Yahoo were granted patents, weaponized now to use against people like me." Andy goes on, in his usual awesomely transparent fashion, to describe his experience at Yahoo! and their methods for procuring patents.
Now, I’ve always hated the idea of software patents. But Yahoo assured us that their patent portfolio was a precautionary measure, to defend against patent trolls and others who might try to attack Yahoo with their own holdings. It was a cold war, stockpiling patents instead of nuclear arms, and every company in the valley had a bunker full of them.
Against my better judgement, I sat in a conference room with my co-founders and a couple of patent attorneys and told them what we’d created. They took notes and created nonsensical documents that I still can’t make sense of. In all, I helped Yahoo file eight patent applications.
Years after I left I discovered to my dismay that four of them were granted by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.
Andy's post is well worth the read. Whether you care about Yahoo! and Facebook or not. (Image courtesy Jeremy Keith. Used under Creative Commons.)

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