Letting Famous People Interact Online? Patented! Twitter Sued

from the oh-come-on dept

Mike Wokasch accidentally alerted us to the news that Twitter is being sued for patent infringement over what may be one of the most ridiculous patents we've seen in a long time. The patent, 6,408,309, is for a "method and system for creating an interactive virtual community of famous people." And yes, the USPTO actually approved this.

Reading through the claims, however, not only suggest that this patent never should have gotten anywhere near being approved, but also raises serious questions about how Twitter infringes. What's patented sounds more like a community in which people compete to be recognized as leaders in specific fields. Twitter is just a communications platform -- it has very little of what's actually described in the claims of the patent. But for the regular patent system defenders in the crowd, can someone explain how this could possibly be seen as patentable? An interactive virtual community of famous people? Seriously?

Wokasch also points out that the "inventor" (and I use that term loosely) is a patent attorney himself. Amusingly, the copyright notice on his website says "Copyright 1999 - 2001" suggesting it's not updated very often.




Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 8:24am

    Patented

    Not Patened - presumably...

     

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  2.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 8:38am

    Ridiculaculous!

    Famous: widely known. Do facebook friends count?
    Famous: honored for achievement. Including scholarly(such as high school awards)?

    Since when is twitter just for "famous" twits?

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 8:52am

    Posting typo corrections on a blog has already been patented by me.
    Richard, please pay up or be sued.

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 8:52am

    Re: Patented

    Also, too many commas...

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:02am

    Patenting stupid idea should be patented.

     

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  6.  
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    Jimr (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:04am

    Further proof USPTO is just a registry

    Further proof USPTO is just a registry service. They do not have the resource or skills to validate the patents so accept them all and then shift the cost to dispute them to the courts and challengers to cover the cost of actually validating them.

    They just need to add in little caveat that requires the patent must be provable (repeatable and/or implementable) and in use (or schedule to be in use) only by the proposed patent holder.

     

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  7.  
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    another mike (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:09am

    wrong target

    Sounds like the "inventor" just joined Twitter and thought they were running the Shorty Awards he kept reading about.

     

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  8.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:18am

    Re:

    Probably already is...

     

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  9.  
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    Will Sizemore (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:20am

    I think he was screwing around when he asked for the original patent and then figured out that with this stunt he can get in on the patent/copyright wars and make a name for himself. If he wins, he can gain clients. If he loses, he can still gain clients because he will know more about the system.

    Even still, didn't IRC have famous people chat LONG before this?

    What about SMS/MMS?

    What about collaborative appearance on television and radio?

    What about summits and conferences?

    Not only is this proof that the USPTO is nothing more than a registry service, but so is the friggin' American Bar Association!

     

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  10.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:20am

    "What's patented sounds more like a community in which people compete to be recognized as leaders in specific fields."

    Sounds a bit like Quora ;-)

     

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  11.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    Whoa I bet they hadn't even thought about suing Facebook-- until now. Fan pages let famous and semi-famous people commune with their fans.

     

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  12.  
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    DJ (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:33am

    Virginia law

    AHA!
    Anyone who has ever lived in VA --and has also actually LEFT VA-- knows how screwed up they're commonwealth laws are. No, I'm not on a soapbox, I'm just saying that maybe it's a contributing factor.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:36am

    It maybe obvious now but it wasn't obvious then.

     

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  14.  
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    Jeff, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:37am

    I make no assertion regarding whether this patent should have been granted, I'm merely elaborating on the first claim...

    Here is the exact text of Claim 1:

    1. A method of creating an interactive virtual community of people in a field of endeavor, comprising the steps of:

    a) selecting a field of endeavor;

    b) compiling a list of members in the selected field;

    c) selecting a member from the compiled list of members based on a preselected factor;

    d) obtaining biographical information about the selected member;

    e) processing the biographical information in a preselected format to create a personal profile of the selected member;

    f) publishing the profile of the selected member on a machine readable media; and

    g) allowing the selected member to interact with the profile.

    Any infringer would need to be doing these exact steps. In particular, an infringer would need to be creating profiles on behalf of potential users. Twitter seems to be way off because, afaik, twitter does not create profiles on behalf of potential users. However, other professional networking sites such as AVVO.com, justia.com, vitals.com and the countless other sites that grab data from professional licensing registries and automatically create professional profiles for users would seem to be potentially infringing.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:42am

    Oh, and this is just another example of how the USPTO has been improving its patent quality.

     

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  16.  
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    Jeff, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:49am

    remarkably, this patent was allowed without a single rejection from the patent examiner. According to this data patented cases in the computer and communications fields typically receive at least one rejection 80-90% of the time.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 9:54am

    Re:

    So where is the evidence of this improvement of approval standards that IP maximists keep on alleging.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Don, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 10:01am

    Making money from patent reviews

    My guess is that the USPTO is more of a business than a government organization. Their thinking is probably let all patents through and then charge for have patents reviewed. And charge to nullify a patent, etc.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 10:29am

    I make no assertion regarding whether this patent should have been granted, I'm merely elaborating on the first claim. In particular, Claim 1 recites the following:

    1. A method of creating an interactive virtual community of people in a field of endeavor, comprising the steps of:
    a) selecting a field of endeavor;
    b) compiling a list of members in the selected field;
    c) selecting a member from the compiled list of members based on a preselected factor;
    d) obtaining biographical information about the selected member;
    e) processing the biographical information in a preselected format to create a personal profile of the selected member;
    f) publishing the profile of the selected member on a machine readable media; and
    g) allowing the selected member to interact with the profile.

    Any infringer would need to be doing these exact steps. In particular, an infringer would need to be creating profiles on behalf of potential users. Twitter seems to be way off because, afaik, twitter does not create profiles on behalf of potential users. However, other professional networking sites such as AVVO.com, justia.com, vitals.com and the countless other sites that grab data from professional licensing registries and automatically create professional profiles for users would seem to be potentially infringing.

     

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

  20.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 10:34am

    It's a good thing this was patented

    It's a good thing this idea was patented. Twitter never would have been invented if its creators had not copied the idea from this patent.

    /sarcasm

     

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  21.  
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    Mr. Oizo, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 11:14am

    A Patented Case that deserves it ?

    Hello,

    I've been reading quite a lot of contra-propaganda regarding patents. Would it maybe be useful to do a case on a particular useful patent that was not obvious and was not in hindsight obvious either ?

     

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  22.  
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    Tom, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 11:36am

    Could Aliens claim Prior Art?

    Just been thinking about patents: If aliens landed and offered us some technology in exchange for say a few billion rabbits and if that technology was covered by a patent,would the person doing the trade not be allowed to develop the technology?

     

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

  23.  
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    MAC, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 11:45am

    Stupid ideas...

    I already hold the patent on patenting stupid ideas and I have a VERY LARGE suite of patent infringers to go after...

    Watch out you morons! I'm coming to get yout wallet!

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    MAC, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 11:48am

    Patents

    I am also going to patent the act of getting a patent. (Patent Pending)

    That way EVERYONE will have to pay me and the licensing fee for the act of filing a patent will be a modest $1,000,000.

    Too much? We can negotiate! Just give me 50% of your licensing fees and we will be all set...

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    theLearnedOne, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 3:27pm

    This guy should be sent back to India. It's greedy people like these that gets 'educated' in this country and makes a fool of themselves. They don't deserve to stay and become scums of the earth!

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    King, Jan 22nd, 2011 @ 6:10am

    Dear sir's

    Dear sir's,
    for your knowledge I have claimed patent on free speech and will sue you all for still talking to eachother without my permission.

    Best regards

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 22nd, 2011 @ 9:19am

    Re: A Patented Case that deserves it ?

    If patents were useful and beneficial to society there would be all sorts of blogs, by IP maximissts, presenting these useful patents and demonstrating all the good they cause. The reason these blogs don't exist because good patents hardly exist, if at all.

    I was even told, by IP maximists on this blog, that the overwhelming majority of patents were good and that these, on this blog, were the exception. Of course this blog doesn't come close to documenting all the bad patents, or even the bad patents that are presented on other blogs. So I challenged the IP maximists. If the majority of patents are good, they should easily be able to come up with more good (preferably relatively recent) patents than we should bad ones. Most of the attempted good patents they came up with were very easily shown to be bad and we can easily come up with a plethora of bad ones ourselves. I've presented this challenge several times on techdirt on different threads during different periods of time. IP maximists invariably fail to come up with examples of good patents. There are only like a few, if that, and in fact this is the only one I've seen up to date (though that particular case is still an abuse of the system)

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100318/1240568623.shtml

    Face it, patents are worse than useless. They cause far more harm than good, at least with our current system.

     

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

  28.  
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    nasch (profile), Jan 23rd, 2011 @ 2:17am

    Re: Re: A Patented Case that deserves it ?

    And I don't remember any patent system defender ever successfully defending a patent called out as a bad one. If they even reply (generally there's just silence), it's to say "well sure, THAT patent is bad, but almost all of them are good; you can't throw out the baby with the bathwater". The problem is the bathwater is so dirty there's no evidence there's even a baby in there. (did I take that metaphor too far?)

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2011 @ 7:04pm

    Re: Re: A Patented Case that deserves it ?

    is because good patents hardly exist *

     

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


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