Social networking site Facebook is in trouble with a Dutch firm which claims to have a patent on its like button.
A patent-holding company, working together with the widow and family of a Dutch computer programmer, has sued Facebook for infringing two patents.
The company is Rembrandt Social Media which had patents from a social networking pioneer who created an early "online diary" program. It wants unspecified royalties from Facebook.
The now-dead Dutch programmer, Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer, was a "pioneer in the development of user-friendly web technologies" who came up with the idea of putting a diary on the internet,
Rembrandt's lawyer, Tom Melsheimer, told Ars Technica that Van Der Meer's idea was to publish and share information with a select group of people and the ability to link in other types of information.
Van Der Meer founded a company called Aduna and started work on implementing the ideas in his two patents, numbers 6,289,362 and 6,415,316. During that time he registered "www.surfbook.com" but it isn't clear what, if anything, he did with it. He died in June 2004 before he could do anything with it.
Facebook, which appeared in 2003, was similar to Van Der Meer's idea, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation, to the personal web page diary that Van Der Meer had invented, according to the complaint.
A company called AddThis has also been named in the suit.
This is not the case of a patent troll coming up with a way of squeezing cash from a company with a previously unknown patent. Facebook knew about the Van Der Meer patents, since one of them is cited in a Facebook patent issued in 2012.
Melsheimer said that his outfit is not your normal patent troll either.
He said that Rembrandt is pretty committed to the idea of finding inventors that have a compelling story to tell and a patent that is important or core to some widely used technology.
Melsheimer expects Van Der Meer's widow and some of his former colleagues to testify about the importance of his invention.
If they win, Van Der Meer's heirs, and the anonymous owner of Rembrandt IP, can now claim they have monopoly rights to an "online diary" until the year 2021.