The Social Software Patent Mess

from the great... dept

Not sure what it is with silly patent messes this evening, but they’re popping up in every other story. The latest one details some of the pending patent fights likely to happen in the tremendously overhyped social software world. There’s been a lot of inbreeding within the social software world with a number of the early players all investing in each other. Reid Hoffman and Marc Pincus, for example, were both early investors in Friendster – and then went on to create their own social networking services that targeted different markets. However, now that the venture capitalists have swooped in, the fear of a patent battle is increasing. Jonathan Abrams of Friendster raised some eyebrows a few months back when reporters asked him about business models and he started ranting on and on about the patents they planned to get. So now, Hoffman and Pincus have teamed up (without Abrams) to buy the old patent that SixDegrees had many years ago. They’re basically hoping to use it as a defensive tactic against any patents Friendster gets. I’m still wondering just what’s so innovative about any of these services that deserves a patent, but that’s a different debate. The article has plenty of details about what’s happening, but all I could think while reading this was that this focus on patents, rather than actual innovation, business models or customers suggests some of these services are already on the downswing. The “space” itself hasn’t even figured out a revenue model and new sites are showing up every day – and the focus is on who gets the patents? It has all the makings of a nice little infighting battle where all these companies drag each other down.

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