Facebook Patents Foursquare?

from the ah,-modern-competition dept

A bunch of folks have sent in the news that Facebook has apparently been granted a very broad patent covering all sorts of location-based "check-in" type services. The patent in question (7,809,805) almost certainly would cover what Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Lattitude and others have done. Of course, it's interesting to note that Facebook itself started offering a product in this space just a couple months ago, when lots of folks noted that it was "late to the game."

The patent filing appears to predate most of the competitors in the space, so it's not like those competitors directly represent prior art. However, Dodgeball, the company that Google acquired (and basically killed) whose founders went on to start FourSquare definitely predates this patent. Even so, there are lots of companies exploring various location-based offerings for many years. The problem wasn't that it needed some big "invention" over how to create a location-based social network. The problem was that the technology hadn't caught up yet: i.e., there weren't that many smartphones with GPS. Once that happened, it was natural to build more location-based services. So it seems particularly silly to patent something that was naturally going to come about once GPS in phones became more common... but that's how the patent system works.

To be fair, to date, Facebook hasn't been known for asserting its patents against other companies (trademarks are another story). But, it's still pretty ridiculous. After all, as it stands right now, there's healthy competition in this particular market, and it's causing all of the players (and some new ones) to keep on innovating and trying to offer better service. If Facebook actually asserted its patent here, it would do the opposite -- and that seems like a clear situation of hindering progress, rather than enabling it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 3:59am

    Like!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 4:46am

    Promote the progress

    Clearly, location-aware services would have never been invented without the patent system! Nice to see the patent system is still working!

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    abd gum, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 4:51am

    "The problem was that the technology hadn't caught up yet: i.e., there weren't that many smartphones with GPS. Once that happened, it was natural to build more location-based services."

    Sounds familiar ... DVR

     

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  4.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 5:22am

    This is new?

    As far I know, location based services have been around since at least 2000. The telecom companies have been very interested in pursuing LBS as a business model for some time, but as was remarked, the technology just wasn't there to support it.

    I'm sure the good people at Alcatel/Lucent could give some prior art on this one.

     

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  5.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 5:32am

    Where you at?

    Wasn't there a cell phone company (the "where you at" people I think) that offered a service that could track friends via their cell phones? The commercials had the people in the big round suits. I saw this so it must have been before I stopped watching live TV so that's got to be 2006 or earlier.

     

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  6.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 6:16am

    still somewhat effective patent

    From Facebook's perspective this may still be effective at discouraging new companies from entering the field. The venture capital for any new location based service companies probably just dried up.

    I have tried a couple of these services and have explored using most of them. None of them seem to me to have gotten it completely right. I think there is still room for a new company to come in and sweep up the market. With the patent announcement that is less likely too be a new kid on the block.

    It probability does not matter that the parent is almost certainly invalid. Facebook wins just by having the threat of a lawsuit.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 7:20am

    Huh.

    Haven't police had systems like this in place in both hardware AND software since forever? Granted the only difference is "web based", but wouldn't that be obvious? It's still the same thing.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    staff, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 7:37am

    you do the bidding

    "If Facebook actually asserted its patent here, it would do the opposite"

    Face it, you hate patents, or at least vehemently oppose likely because you do the bidding of large corporate infringers. But without patents, small entities have no chance of benefiting from their discoveries. Once they prove a market large well funded firms step in and elbow them out. You are not a journalist. All your writing is payola. You are a saboteur. All you do is spread misinformation and bias.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 7:56am

    Re: you do the bidding

    Obvious fat brown ladybug troll is obvious.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:00am

    But Mike, claiming that the USPTO will grant more bogus patents is apurely speculative and unproven prediction. Heck, "You might be surprised to see that very few issues may come up with patents granted this year due to increased quality assurance."

    Besides, the USPTO has always granted bogus patents so how can you prove that the problem is worse and that their granting of more patents with about the same cost and number of inspectors is going to lead to more bogus patents? Maybe it got better but this is just one of the bogus patents that they would have granted regardless. So nothings changed and you have nothing to worry about. This is just a continuation of the bogus patents that the USPTO granted before and since we're already used to that and life and everything didn't turn out worse than it did then we should just accept it. The USPTO will continue granting bad patents but who cares, we'll manage just like we always have. Heck, with this speculative surprise in quality assurance there is even the potential that the USPTO might grant a good patent or two, who knows.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:02am

    Re: you do the bidding

    Must be TAM again, parroting the same unsubstantiated nonsense that he keeps copying and pasting from his notepad of unsubstantiated nonsense.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Franssu, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:07am

    Re:

    So, what you're basically saying is that you know the system is utterly crappy and you're fine with that because "we'll manage like we always have" ?
    Yeah, sounds like the way to progress...

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:17am

    Re: you do the bidding

    This case is just the opposite of what you are saying. It is about a big company squishing little guys with a bogus patent.

    Big companies should not be worried about other big companies. They need to worry about upstarts. Patents help the big company execs sleep well at night.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:20am

    Re:

    We are getting a lot of this type of post lately. Techdirt must be hitting some nerves if we have so many companies will to pay trolls.

    Maybe it is time for Techdirt to make another offer to go dark for a year for $100,000,000. Timing is everything.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:24am

    Re: you do the bidding

    Wow, it's like RJR's pet shill didn't even bother to read the post. Probably because that would violate someone's patent on a method or system for reading typed words...on the internet.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    staff, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Re: you do the bidding

    Face it, you hate patents, or at least vehemently oppose likely because you do the bidding of large corporate infringers. But without patents, small entities have no chance of benefiting from their discoveries. Once they prove a market large well funded firms step in and elbow them out. Are you a journalist? All your writing looks like payola and makes you appear to be a saboteur. All you do is spread misinformation and bias.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:43am

    @staf : Hmmm, so if patents help the little, guy, or asyou put it, it's the only way they stand a chance, please explain:

    1. Why, large software companies, who initially feared process patents, have spent BILLIONS lobbying for their proliferation? Could it have something to do with the skyrocket cost of patent litigation? Coupled with a very low rate of success at trial. Most folks who arent exploiting the system, as I'm sure you are, know something has to be done ASAP.

    2. Why startups don't go patent gaga from the word go. I mean face it, innovative startups are the prey, not the predator as you suggest? These companies thrive, rise to dominate some sector then start looking for ways to burn the ships, so others can't do as they did.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 8:58am

    Re: Re:

    Dang, I was sure people would be able to read the sarcasm in my post but I guess it didn't work out too well. Too many sarcasm illiterates out here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The problem isn't with being sarcasm illiterate-- you've just been hit by Poe's Law, my friend.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 9:16am

    Re: Re: you do the bidding

    Yeah! Facebook and Microsoft always pay Mike to slam their bad patents!!!

    Wait, what?

    Even for you, you're being stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 10:12am

    Re: Where you at?

    I worked for SK Telecom in Korea 2001-2003. We had a buddy finder application live and commercialized. It did not tie in store check-in, but it was planned to be integrated with commerce.

     

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  22.  
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    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 10:16am

    Re: you do the bidding

    Help 4 u:

    Facebook = large company
    FourSquare, Gowalla, loopt = small innovators

    Facebook + patent --> harm small innovators :-(

    This Patent = sux

     

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  23.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah. I guessed sarcasm, but the writing was a little convoluted. My sarc meter only read a 3/10.

    If you weren't an Anon Coward, we might have recognized a pattern from your prior comments, but as it is, you've been POEn'd.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 10:33am

    Re: you do the bidding

    Face it, you hate patents, or at least vehemently oppose likely because you do the bidding of large corporate infringers.

    Funny then, that I tend to call out large corporate misusers of patents all the time (more often than NPEs), huh? And I don't "hate" patents. I have no emotional attachment to patents. What I do have is the research and the evidence of how patents harm innovation. And I believe that innovation is important for our own economy and prosperity.

    ut without patents, small entities have no chance of benefiting from their discoveries.

    Ah, an absolute statement that is absolutely false. As we've shown over and over again, small entities can benefit from their discoveries in many ways, from selling things in the marketplace to selling their expertise. All without patents! So, your "no chance," is blatantly wrong. And we've explained this to you before.

    Once they prove a market large well funded firms step in and elbow them out.

    Except, again, we've shown that's actually not true. In most cases, those large companies don't do a very good job of "elbowing them out." There are some cases where it happens, but tons that show the small company is more agile, better understands the market and stays ahead of the big players (often later becoming big players themselves). We list out so many of these examples to claim otherwise is pure ignorance.

    You are not a journalist

    Never claimed to be one. And I could just as easily make some non sequitur like "you are not an economist."

    All your writing is payola.

    Now, that's just flat-out false. It amuses me that in accusing me of lying, the best you can do is make statements that are clearly defamatory. You're lucky I'm not a litigious individual.

    All you do is spread misinformation and bias.

    If I was spreading misinformation, you could ocrrect me with facts instead of lies. The fact that you don't is quite telling.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    I think (if it was Ron J Resnick who made the "Staff" post, or some think-alike) that "Staff" is not a champion of startups, per se, but of individual inventors who maybe don't have the wherewithal to do a startup.

    I never read an argument from them in defense of startups, but rather of the guy with the so-called "flash of genius". This guy, apparently is unable to get funding and actually execute his idea, but he's damned talented at working the USPTO for monopolies on an idea.

    It seems to me that RJR is not just against big companies, as he always writes, but any company big or small. Every bit of progress, in this view, belongs to some name on some patent, and that inventive person should get all rewards.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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