In context: Xerox is not your run-of-the-mill patent troll looking to squeeze successful companies left and right while contributing nothing to society. In fact, some of today’s most critical technologies that we rely on the day to day originated in its labs. Taking that into account, it may not be as surprising that a new lawsuit has been brought up against social media companies.
Social media giants including Facebook, Twitter, ByteDance and Snap have been accused of many things in recent times, from destroying users’ privacy and selling your personal data to third parties, to censoring free speech, creating thought bubbles, interfering in political elections, and everything in between.
But as it turns out, there is one area where they haven’t fought as many battles: patent infringement. That is, if we don’t take into account that one time in 2018 when BlackBerry sued Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp for making unlicensed use of its mobile messaging patents.
This week, Xerox PARC filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Central District of California against Facebook alleging it uses several of its patents across its apps and websites. Specifically, the patents are related to technology used by Facebook in core functionalities like the News Feed, notifications, groups features, automated content filters, as well as their primary driver of revenue: personalized and targeted advertisement services.
In court filings, PARC explained that it has been “at the forefront of technological innovation for over 50 years. In addition to inventing the first personal computer, PARC is responsible for many cutting-edge technologies we now consider indispensable to our daily lives, like the laser printer, Ethernet, the windows, pop-up menus, and icons that form today’s computer “desktop;” a word processing program that led to Microsoft Word; and computer animation systems that later earned both an Emmy and an Academy Award.”
By contrast, Facebook is seen as a “relatively young social media company” that achieved its success thanks in no small part to patents awarded to Xerox PARC over decades of research.
Xerox also sued Twitter and Snap for infringing on mostly the same patents, but details are scarce about those specific complaints. At this point, it looks like Xerox is seeking to reach an agreement with the companies, but that could take years to materialize.