Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Opinion: Everyone Patents Social Networking

News source: Mashable: Amazon Patents Social Networking System, Winks at Facebook

The United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Amazon a patent for a "Social Networking System." The description of the patent is as follows:
"A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations. The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts."


Replace the word “system” with FacebookFriendster, MySpace, LinkedIn or any social networking site you like. How flawed is the U.S. patent system? This patent was originally granted the founders of social networking service PlanetAll, which Amazon acquired and lackadaisically shut down after two years in 2000. Then decided to file a new patent application in May 2008.

In 2006, Friendster patented "social networking." It was described as a "
system, method, and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks..."
and gained several more social networking patents since.  Facebook patented the newsfeed three months ago and there's a stack more patents  where that came from covering the social networking over the years. My questions are:
  • How long before someone pushes the nuclear button and takes one or other site to court for patent infringement?
  • How long after that 'til the rest pile into court defending theirs?
  • How long 'til the resulting blanket injunctions take down every social networking site accessible in the US and therefore across most of the planet?
I, for one, look forward to it!  RC

Post-script: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. The website has a Find Us on Facebook button. Why??!! And - for how long??!!!

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