Dutch family sues Facebook over ‘like’ button patent


The heirs of a Dutch Internet inventor are suing Facebook for allegedly infringing his patents with the U.S. social-networking site’s “like” and “share” buttons, court documents seen on Monday said.

The family of Jos Van Der Meer, a computer scientist, programmer and inventor who died in 2004, is being represented by patent-holding company Rembrandt in the suit brought before a U.S. court in Virginia on Feb. 4.

The suit for unspecified damages claims Facebook’s infringement of two related patents filed in 1998 by Van Der Meer, who is described as “a pioneer in the development of user-friendly Web-based technologies.”

One patent “claimed a novel technology that gave ordinary people … the ability to create and use what Van Der Meer called a personal diary,” court papers said.

The second patent is for technology that enables “the automatic transfer, at a user’s request, of third-party content from a content-provider’s website to the user’s personal diary page” — akin to Facebook’s “share” or “like” buttons.

Van Der Meer set up a company to commercialize his inventions, Aduna, registered the surfbook.com website, and launched a pilot system, but died in 2004.

The suit notes that one of Facebook’s own patents cited one of Van Der Meer’s patents and so the company was aware of the infringement.

“Although Mark Zuckerberg did not start what became Facebook until 2003, it bears a remarkable resemblance, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation, to the personal Web page diary that Van Der Meer had invented years earlier,” court documents said.

Facebook has been targeted by a swath of lawsuits for alleged intellectual-property infringement, but few have been successful.