Facebook in more hot water: Boston publisher sues Facebook for siphoning away its revenue

Phoenix Media LLC, publisher of the Boston Phoenix newspaper, has fired a legal salvo across the bow of Facebook Inc., accusing the social networking giant of siphoning away its revenue.

Phoenix Media’s lawsuit, filed Oct. 7 in Boston’s district court, alleges Facebook infringed on a subsidiary’s patent to publish personal pages for online dating services.

Tele-Publishing Inc., based in the Phoenix’s headquarters on Brookline Ave. in Boston, is part of Phoenix Media’s People2People group, which has provided voice personals and dating services to newspapers since the 1980s, according to its Web site.

The patent in dispute, issued in 2001, covers a “method and apparatus for providing a personal page.” Features include an online template, text and graphics and the ability to grant others permission to view given page.

According to Phoenix Media’s complaint, Facebook’s computer network and method of creating and sharing personals page infringes the Tele-Publishing patent.

In 2001, Tele-Publishing introduced TPI Connect, an online service based on the patent at issue in yesterday’s filing. Its customers include the Washington Post, which publishes a personals site that is based on the company’s technology.

Based in California, Facebook launched in 2004 as an online social network for Harvard students.

In February, Facebook paid a reported $65 million to settle claims by founder Mark Zuckerberg’s former Harvard classmates that he stole the idea from their competing student-networking service, ConnectU.

A Facebook spokesman could not be reached.

Source:  Boston Business Journal

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