Family of Dutch web pioneer is suing Facebook and AddThis

12 Feb, 2013



The estate of a Dutch web pioneer  called Jos van der Meer is suing Facebook and Addthis over two patents – and very crucial patents for both companies at that.

According to the complaint, which was filed in Virginia, Jos van der Meer was a computer scientist, programmer and inventor. In September 1998, Van der Meer filed two patents with the US Patent and Trademark office, for a technology to allow ordinary people to create a ‘personal diary’ on the internet.

The first patent is described in the complaint like this:

“Using his system, people could collect personal information and third-party content, organize the information chronologically on a personalized web page and share the info with a selected group of people, through the use of user-settable privacy levels.”

The second patent:

a set of technologies that enabled the automatic transfer at a user’s request, of third-party content from a content provider’s website to the user’s personal diary page.

According to the complaint, Van der Meer was trying to commercialize the software under the name Surfbook (which no longer exists), via a company called AIdministrator Nederland BV. The company still exists under the name ‘Aduna Software’, and develops solutions for the semantic web.

The mechanism of a ‘personal diary’ smells very similar to Facebook (it even mentions ads as a business model), and the second patent describes any kind of widget that allows you to retrieve content on a third party website.

The complaint says that Facebook knowingly violated the patents, because one of them is listed as ‘prior art’ on a Facebook patent.

The lawyer for Rembrandt Social Media, Tom Melsheimer, told Ars Technica that he’s looking to get Facebook and AddThis to pay “a reasonable royaltiy”.

Jos van der Meer’s daughter Josje Van der Meer was marketing executive at Aduna Software for a few months in 2010. She said:

“This lawsuit is not primarily about money, but about recognition for my father and his team. They were motivated by unlocking information on the ever expanding internet, and they invested quite a lot of money and energy in open source software like Sesame.”

She acknowledges that patent litigation is mostly about money, however:

“That’s how the system works in the US. This is the only way to get recognition for your work there. Jos was hardly interested in money. He had brilliant ideas for software to tame the web and he did great work. I think he deserves a spot in history with the recognition of his patents.” (source: webwereld)

[via PRNewswire, Venturebeat, ArsTechnica][photo: Flickr]

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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