Facebook sued over 'Like' button patent
The claim for unspecified royalties, issued in federal court in Virginia by a holding company called Rembrandt Social Media, alleges that Facebook used technology developed by Jos Van Der Meer over a decade ago.
Mr Van Der Meer died in 2004 but his family has reportedly backed the action.
"We believe Rembrandt's patents represent an important foundation of social media as we know it, and we expect a judge and jury to reach the same conclusion based on the evidence," said lawyer Tom Melsheimer, representing Rembrandt Social Media.
Mr Van Der Meer began work on Surfbook, described in the lawsuit as a "social diary", before his death in 2004. In 1998 he was granted two patents: one describing a way of logging content from third party websites in the diary, apparently similar to Facebook's Like button, and the other a more general description of the diary.
Facebook "bears a remarkable resemblance, both in terms of its functionality and technical implementation, to the personal web page diary that Van Der Meer had invented years earlier", the claim alleges.
The social networking firm has not commented on the case.
AddThis, a social bookmarking services, has also been targeted in the lawsuit.
“Years before Facebook and AddThis, Jos van der Meer conceived of and patented core aspects of social media," said Rembrandt chairman Paul Schneck.
"Facebook and AddThis are using the ideas disclosed in Jos’ patents without permission or payment. Through this litigation, Rembrandt Social Media hopes to recover payment for the unauthorized usage of patents by Facebook and AddThis.”
Rembrandt rejected criticism it was a "patent troll", or a company set up only to gather royalties. It claimed Facebook was aware of Mr Van Der Meer's work as it cited it in some of its own patent applications.
The social network bolstered its patent portfolio last year with a series of acquisitions, as it warned investors it was likely to become the target of more lawsuits.