Earlier this week, like everyone else I found out that Yahoo sued Facebook over patents.
I felt sick about it but when i read this story about a former yahoo engineers take on the their patent process, i had to let out this tweet.
Dear Yahoo board. You picked the wrong ceo. Again.— Bijan Sabet (@bijan) March 13, 2012
And I wasn’t alone. Many folks were upset and angry. My friend Fred wrote this blistering post and ended with this quote of all quotes.
I am not writing this in defense of Facebook. They can and will defend themselves. I am wrting this in outrage at Yahoo! I used to care about that company for some reason. No more. They are dead to me. Dead and gone. I hate them now.
Yesterday Om wrote an interesting take on the Yahoo vs Facebook battle. It was after a healthy debate we had on Twitter DM. In his post and in our DM, Om brought up a number of reasons why Yahoo had to do this. Some of his key arguments are:
1. Yahoo isn’t Apple. They can’t turn around.
2. Yahoo is doing right by it’s shareholders by going with this legal action against fb.
3. If they really are bullshit patents then the courts will throw them out
4. this battle may not be about patents alone.
I just don’t agree with any of these points. I’ll briefly touch on each.
1. Every company isn’t like Apple but they should learn from Apple and some do very well. Apple was near death as a company. Their financial situation was awful and that was because their products were sucking. And they had sucky leadership. But they turned it around and built insanely great products.
We see other companies turning around with great products and execution. Big companies like Cisco as well as startups like Path turned around because they innovated not because they turned into a troll. AOL is free falling but they haven’t converted to troll behavior.
Yahoo still has/had great people and very useful and important products (flickr, mail, IM, sports, news etc). They need to focus on making those great and finding their next ones through internal creativity or acquisitions. But acquisitions will be harder than ever for them (now).
2. Yahoo isn’t doing right by it’s shareholders with this lawsuit. This attack hasn’t moved their stock price so public investor aren’t enthused. And shareholders will get hurt as yahoo’s employees leave because they aren’t proud of their company anymore. And getting good replacements used to be hard and now will be darn near impossible. If you can’t get good people, then you might as well sell everything off now. It’s over.
3. I don’t like this argument at all. It’s the reason why i hate our patent system. if you rely on the courts for everything you are just rewarding the trolls and big companies. startups wont have a chance in this game.
4. I don’t buy it. If that was the case, there would be no reason to publicly file a lawsuit in such fashion.
I’m really shocked that under new leadershp at Yahoo, the first move was this public lawsuit. Our portfolio is often under attack by trolls and some of these portfolio conpanies are quite high profile. But none of these attacks come with a legal complaint in the mail with a simulatanous release to the NYT.