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Baltimore-based Software Company Sues Facebook for Patent Infringement

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Baltimore, MDCopyright infringement has morphed in recent years from focusing on violations to the authorship of text and even ideas, to the protection of all things intellectual and the ownership of one's intellectual property. The explosion of the Internet—and more specifically mobile communication—tethered with the creation of applications, has put an even greater importance on the policing of intellectual property.

The September 23 issue of the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal reports on a lawsuit filed the day before by WhoGlue Inc., a software company based in Baltimore, Maryland. The action, filed in US District Court for Delaware, September 22, claims that social networking giant Facebook violated a patent awarded to WhoGlue in 2007 for what the lawsuit refers to as an 'information management system' that controls personal information, as human networks and technology increasingly converge.

Having recently reached and exceeded the 300 million-member plateau Facebook has become cash flow positive according to the source. WhoGlue is crying foul and is seeking damages as well as a permanent injunction prohibiting further infringement on a patent identified as No. 7,246,164.

The Actual Copyright Infringement Behind WhoGlue Action Unclear

WhoGlue was launched in 2001 with a mandate to develop social networking software—the so-called 'relationship management software. These would be tools used by such entities as trade groups, associations and alumni organizations to further their networking opportunities.

Two years later WhoGlue acquired intellectual property developed by PolyPol. At the time, in 2003, WhoGlue CEO Jason Hardebeck described WhoGlue's acquisition as a personal relationship tool.

While the WhoGlue litigation does not specify in what fashion Facebook infringed on its patent, the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal reports that Facebook's privacy controls appear to be central to the dispute. The availability of such controls is thought to be a driving force behind the social network's sensational growth.

WhoGlue's patent, according to documents filed with the suit, covers a system that "facilitates user-managed information flow to groups of associated users. That is, members of an online network may control who has access to any given piece of information they create and distribute, as well as what information may be presented to them by other users."

In a 2003 interview with the Baltimore Business Journal, Hardebeck related how WhoGlue had taken the acquired PolyPol technology and tweaked it to create a customized newsletter program. He reported that the program's first client was the House Republican Caucus of Pennsylvania, which sent out e-newsletters to constituents featuring customized content according to the likes and interests of recipients.

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