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Yahoo threatens Facebook over social media patents

28 February 2012

Yahoo has demanded licensing fees from Facebook for use of its technology, the companies said on Monday, potentially resulting in the patent battles and lawsuits currently raging across much of the hi-tech sector. 

Yahoo has asserted claims on patents that include the technical mechanisms in the Facebook's adverts, privacy controls, newsfeed and messaging, according to a source on the matter. 

Representatives from the two companies met on Monday and the talks involved 10 to 20 of Yahoo's patents, said the source, who was not aware of what specific dollar demands Yahoo may have made for licenses. Yahoo did not elaborate in an emailed statement on details of its discussions with Facebook, but indicated it would not flinch at taking the social networking giant to court over its patents.

Yahoo said other companies have already licensed some of the technologies at issue, and that it would act if Facebook refused to pay for a patent license. "Yahoo has a responsibility to its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders to protect its intellectual property," the company said.

A Facebook spokesman said: "Yahoo contacted us at the same time they called the New York Times and so we haven't had the opportunity to fully evaluate their claims." 

Should Yahoo wind up suing Facebook, it would mark the first major legal battle among technology giants in the social media circle and a escalation of patent litigation that has already swept up the smartphone and tablet sectors and high-tech companies such as Apple Inc , Microsoft Corpand Motorola Mobility. 

Several social networking companies, including Facebook, have seen an increase in patent claims against them as they move through the IPO process. Though most of those lawsuits have been filed by patent aggregators that buy up intellectual property to squeeze value from it via licensing deals, and none by a large tech company such as Yahoo.

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