Leader Tech v. Facebook (D.D.E. 2008)

On November 19, Leader Tech sued Facebook for patent infringement of its U.S. Patent No. 7,139,761. The ‘761 patent claims priority to a provisional application filed in December 2002 – well before Facebook’s 2004 launch. The patent claims are difficult for me to understand:

1. A computer-implemented network-based system that facilitates management of data, comprising:

  • a computer-implemented context component of the network-based system for capturing context information associated with user-defined data created by user interaction of a user in a first context of the network-based system, the context component dynamically storing the context information in metadata associated with the user-defined data, the user-defined data and metadata stored on a storage component of the network-based system; and
  • a computer-implemented tracking component of the network-based system for tracking a change of the user from the first context to a second context of the network-based system and dynamically updating the stored metadata based on the change, wherein the user accesses the data from the second context.

Facebook has also been sued for patent infringement by PA Advisors (Patent No. 6,199,067; dismissed with consent of parties) and Cross Atlantic Capital Partners (Patent No. 6,519,629; Litigation stayed pending reexamination).

15 thoughts on “

  1. 15

    In re Swinehart is a non-precedential decision on very specific circumstances to a composition. The “functional limitations” in Swinehart further limit the claim because they further define the specific crystalline compound. I don’t see how the case law of Swinehart can be properly applied in this instance.

  2. 14


    Thank you for your helpful explanation of what the patentee might have had in mind. Your point is well made and much appreciated.

  3. 13

    Sorry Mooney,

    In re Swineheart says that “functional baloney” is to be given patentable weight. You must be practicing to be an Examiner, because you seem to have a penchant for glossing over the detailed language of the claims.

    Of course, practice all you want, the Examining Corps doesn’t allow silk panties and white wine during office hours.

  4. 12

    Coming from a patent attorney, this is just gibberish! If you can’t tell WTF a claim covers then the claim should be just be invalid on its face. I’m so tired of these incredibly vague claims that seem to read on everything and nothing simultaneously.

    Let’s just look at the first bullet and pull out the gibberish claim terms:
    (1) a computer-implemented context component
    (2) context information
    (3) user-defined data
    (4) user interaction
    (5) a first context of the network-based system,
    (6) metadata
    (7) storage component

    Let’s look next at the stupidly broad terms verbs:
    (1) for capturing
    (2) associated
    (3) created
    (4) dynamically storing
    (5) stored

    None of these terms tell you anything about anything.

    Call me jaded, but I’m really tired of these claims.

  5. 11

    Similar to Friendster, why not use Amazon.com’s suggestion system to reject the claims?

    It runs on a computer network, it tracks user preferences, purchases, and browsing related to a specific user and then updates the preferences (metadata) of the user as the user moves through multiple items/selections. Sounds like a context component and tracking system to me.

  6. 10

    I didn’t claim that Friendster invented social networking. I merely used Friendster as an easily verified example of a site that did much of what this patent appears to claim before the patent’s priority date.

    If Facebook can find earlier prior art (and they probably can), more power to them, but I’m not going to do an exhaustive search just to make a post on Patently-O.

  7. 9

    Too bad I don’t know what Friendster is.

    If I did, I would make a list of 102 art which is apparently readily available (1 hour work?) instead of writing to PatentlyO.

    I would then sell my list to Facebook for about $2000, the infringement suit would be over and I would be knighted as the Troll-slaying Paladin.

  8. 8

    “Right, because Friendster invented social networking.”

    Are you actually claiming that some form of social networking existed prior to the advent of the internets? Luddite!

  9. 7

    “The prior existence of Friendster should give a good jumping off point for an obviousness argument that could invalidate the rest of the claims.”

    Right, because Friendster invented social networking.

  10. 6

    Reading the specification helps some. I believe that the patentee believes that the patent covers Facebook’s use of Networks and Groups to which Users belong.

    Generally, Facebook users belong to one or more Networks (e.g., a school, employer, or geographic region). Each Network can contain Groups (e.g., Cubs Fans, Band Members, etc). These groups have their own discussion boards, photo galleries, etc. The Networks also used to have discussion boards and galleries, but I believe those have been eliminated.

    Originally, Groups were associated only with a Network (e.g., Cubs Fans (Yale Chapter), Cubs Fans (Harvard Chapter), etc). Now there are groups that are available to anyone on Facebook as well.

    I believe that the patentee is alleging that Networks are the ‘webs’ described by the patent and Groups are the ‘boards.’ Narrower claims also include the notion of tracking the relationships between users and the inclusion of various applications in the environment, including chat and calendaring.

    So, assuming the patent is valid, the claim of infringement is not crazy. That said, I think several claims will be found invalid because Friendster (another social networking site) launched in March, 2002, several months before the priority date of the patent at issue. The prior existence of Friendster should give a good jumping off point for an obviousness argument that could invalidate the rest of the claims.

  11. 5

    Can we rely on all that language that MM identifies as “functional baloney” to invalidate the claims as being directed to a mixed device/method, as in IPXL?

  12. 4

    If you think those claims are difficult to understand, you should check out the claims in U.S. 7,000,180, in which some of the limitations appear to contradict each other. Balthaser recently sued a bunch of companies on this patent in E.D. Texas.

  13. 3

    The claim should read as follows:

    A computer-implemented network-based system so broadly claimed that I can sue any large internet service and extract a t(r)oll payment therefrom.

  14. 2

    Oh, but D, to one of ordinary skill, and in view of the spec that’s all 100% full, clear, concise, and exact in its terms as to enable a person skilled in the art to make or use it, those claims make absolute sense and also particularly point out and distinctly claim the subject matter which the applicant regards as his invention!

    Now giving 10 to 1 odds that this case will go one way or the other, can you guess which way I’ll give these odds to? If you’ve got the money, you know my email!

  15. 1

    Uh-oh, here we are again!

    Let’s boil it down, shall we?

    “1. A computer-implemented network-based system that facilitates management of data, comprising:
    a computer-implemented context component and
    a computer-implemented tracking component.”

    That’s it, folks. The rest is purely functional baloney and in most units other than softywaftyland a claim like this would be swatted down hard and it would never get back up.

    If you want to understand the majesty of this fantastic “invention”, check out claim 21. Impressed? I didn’t think so.

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