Yahoo Inc is seeking to force Facebook Inc into licensing 10 to 20 patents over technologies that include advertising, the personalization of Web sites, social networking and messaging, people briefed on the matter said.
The two companies met on Monday to discuss the issue, with Yahoo contending that Facebook was infringing on the patents, according to these people, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Yahoo has told Facebook to pay licensing fees or risk a possible lawsuit.
“Yahoo has a responsibility to its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders to protect its intellectual property,” a Yahoo spokesman said in a statement. “We must insist that Facebook either enter into a licensing agreement or we will be compelled to move forward unilaterally to protect our rights.”
Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said in a statement: “We haven’t had the opportunity to fully evaluate their claims.”
Patent fights are nothing new in Silicon Valley, with smartphone technology becoming the most visible battleground.
Google Inc paid US$12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc last year largely to get access to intellectual property. A consortium of companies led by Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp paid US$4.5 billion for more than 6,000 patents held by Nortel, the defunct communications equipment maker.
Apple, Samsung Electronics Co and other smartphone makers have also been locked in an array of courtroom conflicts globally over various patents.
However, intellectual property battles have yet to arise en masse among social networking companies.
It is unclear when Yahoo and Facebook began discussions over the disputed intellectual property.
However, Yahoo’s saber rattling happens to come at a delicate time for Facebook, which is preparing to go public this spring.
Last year, IEEE Spectrum, a technology publication, rated Yahoo’s patents as the most valuable among those held by communications and Internet services.