July 28, 2010 / 5:20 PM / 10 years ago

Facebook beats back patent infringement claim

WILMINGTON, Del (Reuters) - Facebook Inc won a legal fight on Wednesday over claims its hugely popular social networking website infringed a patent owned by Leader Technologies, but the little-known company said it would ask the judge to set aside the verdict.

The Facebook logo is shown at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California May 26, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The eight-member jury ruled that Leader’s patent was invalid, according to Facebook’s attorney, Michael Rhodes of Cooley LLP, which represents Facebook.

“It’s called checkmate,” said Rhodes. “We are very pleased.”

Leader Technologies of Columbus, Ohio, brought the case in 2008, saying that Facebook infringed a 2006 patent that protects an online collaborative tool that was developed by the company’s founder, Michael McKibben.

Facebook, which was founded in 2004, filed a counterclaim arguing that the patent was not infringed and that Leader Technologies’ patent was invalid.

“From the day this lawsuit was filed, we said the patent was invalid and the case was without merit and we are gratified the jury agreed,” said Facebook’s general counsel, Ted Ullyot, in a statement.

The jury found that the there was infringement. However, the jury also found there was commercial activity by Leader Technologies prior to its patent being issued, which invalidated the invention’s protection.

Leader Technologies’ lawyer said the company will ask the judge to set aside the verdict invalidating the patent because there was not “substantial evidence” to support the jury’s decision.

“If we’re successful in getting the verdict set aside regarding commercial activity then the infringement will still be in place,” said Paul Andre, an attorney with King & Spalding, which is representing Leader Technologies.

Andre said the two sides will be submitting legal briefs next week and he expected the case to remain unsettled for months.

The case is Leader Technologies Inc v Facebook Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-00862.

Reporting by Tom Hals, editing by Bernard Orr

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