Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

How Much Will You Pay for Friendster's Social Networking Patent?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Wendy Piersall is one of many bloggers commenting about Friendster's being granted a patent by the US Patent & Trademark Office for an implementation of social networking. The Red Herring article is here, and the full text of the patent is here.

The Friendster patent claim was originally filed in 2003. The patent was issued in late June of this year. There are many interesting views floating around in the blogosphere about this, for example:

  • This is what happens when the patent examination process takes so long.
  • This will stifle innovation.
  • This will stimulate innovation.
  • Friendster's fortunes are in decline so it will have to take up suing people to make money.
  • Networking services like Linkedin will end up paying huge license fees and will have  to shut down free subscriptions.
  • Some attorneys are going to make a lot of money over this.

I am amazed that sufficient "prior art" wasn't available to discredit at least some components of the original claim. Social networking concepts have been floating around for a long time, and various pieces of software to implement different aspects of social networking have also been around.

Maybe broader access to experts during the initial examination of prior art might have helped, as suggested by the experimental Peer to Patent Project and its (ironic?) application of some basic social networking concepts to the patent review process itself.

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