Sue happy together: Yahoo threatens patent suit against Facebook; Proview wants iPad name back from Apple

Everybody jump into the Pool of Patent and Trademark Fights.

• A new swimmer is suiting up: Yahoo. The Sunnyvale company has threatened to sue Facebook over patents, according to the New York Times. The 10 to 20 patents are related to advertising, messaging and more, and the NYT’s sources said Yahoo is demanding that the world’s largest social network pay up or risk being sued. The news comes as Facebook prepares to go public and is perhaps a precursor to patent-lawsuit fever spreading to social networking. It also seems to be the first high-profile move by Yahoo’s new regime under CEO Scott Thompson.

The lawsuit has yet to be filed, but Yahoo seems to be losing the battle in the court of public opinion already — what else is new — with tech journalists such as Kara Swisher of AllThingsD writing, “Apparently, Yahoo’s new motto: If you can’t beat ’em — and it can’t — sue ’em.” TechCrunch‘s headline reads in part: “Yahoo stabs Facebook in the back,” and calls Yahoo’s new tack “patent trolling.” Patent trolling is used loosely these days, but traditionally has referred to companies with no products of services of their own attempting to capitalize on the success of others that do. Yahoo, an Internet pioneer, may have lost its edge, but it does still have products, services and an audience. The NYT report does point out that Yahoo was able to get Google — right before its IPO — to settle patent charges brought by Overture, a company Yahoo bought in 2003. Still, it’s worth noting that those passing judgment have not indicated they have seen the patents in question in this case.

• Just think, when Apple announced in 2010 that it would name its tablet “iPad,” there was much ado about its seemingly unappealing name, especially to women. Jokes galore followed. Now the tablet’s name is proving to be no laughing matter for the Silicon Valley company, which is fighting a Chinese company over it. Proview Technology has managed to get iPads pulled off store shelves in some cities in China. Now its U.S. lawsuit against Apple is turning up information on the origins of the fight. Fortune lays out the details, citing a Proview press release. In a nutshell: Apple reportedly created a secret division to go after the iPad name, which it knew was owned by the Chinese company Proview Technology. Proview eventually sold Apple the rights to the name in 10 countries, according to Apple’s standard statement about its ongoing battle over the iPad name. Proview is now reportedly seeking to have that sale voided, and wants Apple to stop using the iPad name worldwide.

Meanwhile, Apple today sent out invitations to a media event in San Francisco next week, where it’s expected to unveil the newest iPad.



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