What Patents is Yahoo Threatening Facebook With?

With the recent news yesterday first reported by New York Times that Yahoo! has threatened Facebook with “10 to 20” of its patents, purportedly related to “Facebook’s ads, privacy controls, news feeds and messaging service”, we scoured Yahoo’s patent portfolio to find patents that could possibly be asserted against Facebook.

We reviewed the Yahoo patents based on their claim language, subject matter, priority dates, issue dates, and citations.  Below is our best guess as to some patents that could possibly be asserted against Facebook:

US 7,844,604 – “Automatically generating user-customized notifications of changes in a social network system”

Discloses a news feed display for a social networking system.  Independent Claim 13 is a method claim that is somewhat broader than the other two independent claims, and it recites storing changes related to events of user interest, generating a consolidated list of such changes, and displaying these changes as notifications to the user.  Specifically, in Figure 2, listing 202 is a notifications of changes that are relevant to a particular user.  This appears very similar to the Facebook news feed feature.

US 8,027,931 – “Automated friend finder”

Discloses a system of matching users and suggesting friends based on public and private profile information.  Independent Claim 1 recites comparing public and private profile data to determine suggested connections.  This appears similar to the Facebook friend suggestion feature.  Other possible infringers could include dating websites such as Match.com and Chemistry.com.

US 7,269,590 – “Method and system for customizing views of information associated with a social network user”

Discloses a system to manage viewing settings for a social networking profile based on degrees of separation between members of the social network or a relationship to the prospective viewer. Independent Claim 8 recites creating a view setting for a profile based on “predetermined relationship strength” or based on “group set”.  This is similar to Facebook’s user privacy settings that allow only friends, or friends-of-friends, etc. view a profile.

US 8,112,393 – “Determining related keywords based on lifestream feeds”

Discloses extracting keywords from updates to a “lifestream”, and displaying advertisements based on the extracted keywords.  This may be similar to how Facebook determines which ads to display when users are viewing their news feed and/or wall.

We believe that these patents, at least on their face, have claims that could possibly be mapped directly to Facebook features that are visible on the front end.  In our opinion, Yahoo is likely also asserting patents covering back-end algorithms and processes related to selecting/delivering targeted advertisements (similar to the ‘393 patent above) based on information gathered from user profiles.

This could be the beginning of a patent assault by Yahoo against Facebook and other popular social networking companies, and Yahoo may just be testing the waters with the purported “10 to 20” patents that it has threatened Facebook with.

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