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IP Lawsuit: Facebook Vs Yahoo! Who Will Win?

Updated on April 27, 2012
Facebook Vs Yahoo!
Facebook Vs Yahoo!

Aaaand FIGHT!

The big tech drama in the news right now is the suit that Yahoo brought against Facebook. Facebook responded by countersuing, saying Yahoo was infringing, and then started buying up hundreds of patents. Yahoo just countered with a longer list of infringements that Facebook has made. However this brings up an interesting question: What is with all these intellectual property lawsuits in the news?

What is Intellectual Property?

IP is kind of like a copyright or patent. It can be for anything, but in this case it is for strings of code on a website, or methods of doing something. Think about copyrights on a recipe or something.

Why are there IP laws?

The purpose of intellectual property laws are to encourage new technologies, artistic expressions and inventions while promoting economic growth.

When individuals know that their creative work will be protected and that they can benefit from their labor, they are more likely to continue to produce things that create jobs, develop new technology, make processes more efficient, and create beauty in the world around us.

Group 1, Kitten.
Group 1, Kitten.

The Harsh Realities Facing IP Protection Suits

I have a friend who works for company Kitten, lets say. He designed these adorable virtual kittens that interact with you, need to be fed and watered, etc. The money is made by the purchasing of food and water. A section of Kitten decided that they wanted to go separate ways. After leaving, they were bought by company Doggy. Doggy then started to produce doggies that were exactly like the kittens but had the doggy skin.

Here is where it gets stupid. Kitten decide to sue puppy because of IP stealing, which was totally obvious. Puppy, who is owned by a larger company decides to countersue, saying they had it first and Kitten actually stole the IP. Since Puppy has more money, it has been able to drag out this suit for a year or so now, causing emotional strain on the sick owner of Kitten, and costing Kitten over 300,000 in damages including lawyer bills and other costs. Puppy will likely win this by attrition and take the rest of the money Kitten has.

How is this just? How is this right? How does this encourage artistic expression and innovation?

Most IP suits turn into counter-suits.

Group 2, Puppy.
Group 2, Puppy.

So, Who Wins?

In the end, I don't think anyone does. IP laws are supposed to make innovation come about. People are supposed to be happy and work together towards a brighter future. I know I would not want to work on a long term investment if I was worried that it could be so similar to someone else's that I am sued for everything I have.

I think we need to look at our Intellectual Property laws right now and consider who they can unintentionally hurt, ask ourselves if we should change them, and do something about it before anyone else gets caught up in the crossfire.

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