Yahoo's management made an interesting and unexpected move this week, suing Facebook for patent infringement. There are 10 patents in question here, some of which were filed and issued long ago, before anyone really knew what the Internet was or where it was headed. The patents are vague and mostly nondescript, leaving open a lot of room for failure on Yahoo's part.
There are a number of issues that this filing has raised. First, there is the major problem of software patent law. There are a lot of thoughts on what needs to happen, and most of those thoughts seem to come from a place of misunderstanding of how software or patents work. Patents, for software or hardware, are only allowed to be approved for implementation not concept. For instance, one of the patents in question, "Control for enabling a user to preview display of selected content based on another user's authorization level," is not focused on implementation, but instead on concept. This patent does not bind to the law for patents, and therefore has no chance of standing up in a court case like this.
The solution here is to get the US Patent Office involved and get them to stop approving unlawful patents. That is not an option with patents already in question, so that leads to the second issue. With the ability of the court to nullify the patents in question here, why would Yahoo choose to file against Facebook after theoretically infringing for years? Hit the break to find out.