The former champ of the social networking space, Friendster, may finally have a way to claw back at the sites that have overtaken it: patent litigation. The company announced today that it has received a broad patent for a "system, method, and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks." In other words, it's basically a patent on online social networking. At this point, the company hasn't explicitly stated that it intends to sue anyone, though the company says it will protect its intellectual property, which isn't hard to interpret. Amusingly, the company claimed to have forgotten it had every applied for the patent, which is odd since from the nascent days of the space, the various players were fighting about who owned what intellectual property. The coming legal battles (in our crystal ball, we're seeing a court in East Texas for some reason) could prove interesting. First of all, there could be prior art on this "technology" as Friendster wasn't even the first social networking site. But even if the patent were granted legitimately, it's intuitive how this patent would be more of a hindrance than an incentive for innovation. Of course, if the patent system is designed to act as a consolation prize to companies that fail, then it's doing its job just fine.
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