Facebook Fends off Patent Claims Over Van Der Meer Site

Facebook Inc. (FB), the world’s biggest social network, won a trial in which it was accused of infringing patents for a “Web page diary” invented by a Dutch computer scientist in the 1990s.

The patents are invalid and not infringed, a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia, said today. The suit was filed by Rembrandt Social Media LP, a Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania-based company that handles licensing and litigation for independent inventors like the late Joannes Van Der Meer, the inventor of the two patents.

Van Der Meer, who died in 2004, developed technology he called Surfbook that enabled people to collect personal information and third-party content on a personalized website, and then share the information with a select group of friends. The suit targeted Facebook’s Timeline, Newsfeed, Groups and Photo Sharing features.

Facebook, based in Menlo Park, California, and founded in 2004, contended its features used different technology. It also argued that the patents didn’t cover new ideas, so were invalid.

“Today’s decision affirms our belief from the very beginning that patents asserted by Rembrandt Social Media are invalid and not infringed,” Sam O’Rourke, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, said in a statement. “We are pleased that the jury agreed.”

Facebook also claimed that Van Der Meer’s company, called Aduna, waited too long before filing the suit. The suit was filed last year, almost a decade after Van Der Meer’s death and Facebook’s founding.

Trial Delay

Facebook rose less than 1 percent to $64.50 at 4 p.m. in New York. The shares have almost tripled in the past year.

Even before the verdict, Rembrandt sought a new trial, saying District Judge T.S. Ellis, who was presiding over the trial, asked questions of a witness that “seriously and unfairly prejudiced Rembrandt in front of the jury.”

The trial was delayed by a debate over testimony regarding the amount Rembrandt was seeking against Facebook. Ellis said the expert witness hired by Rembrandt used flawed reasoning in calculating damages, so blocked the testimony. Last month, an appeals court declined to hear a challenge filed by Rembrandt, saying it wasn’t an appropriate issue to appeal before the trial was held.

The case is Rembrandt Social Media LP v. Facebook Inc., 13-158, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Romaine Bostick at rbostick@bloomberg.net; Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net Bernard Kohn

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