Facebook Is Being Sued By a Dead Man

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Dutch programmer Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer is suing Facebook over its 'Like' button. Companies get sued all the time! Why do we care? Well, aside from having an A+ name, van Der Meer is actually... dead. He passed away in 2004, just as Facebook was beginning to take over the world. Why is he suing now?

Van Der Meer was the founder of Surfbook, a social diary-type service where people could share stuff with friends and like things with a 'like' button. If that sounds a heckuva lot like some other site with book in its name, well, you know why lawsuits are being tossed around. The lawsuit claims that 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."

Van Der Meer was awarded patents in 1998 for Surfbook, patents that presumably include the Like button. But Van Der Meer is dead so why does he care about lawsuits? Well, Rembrandt Social Media, a patent-holding company, is the one that'll be doing the suing but Van Der Meer's widow and his colleagues will testify in the trial about the importance of his invention. Some times, people want credit for their work. And other times, patent holding companies want money for those people's work. Even when they're dead. [Ars Technica, BBC, CNET]