Amazon 'Friends' Patent Office: Gets Social Networking Patent

from the one-click-friending? dept

You may recall a few years ago that many people were up in arms over the ridiculousness of Friendster, the social network that kicked off the social networking craze (though it was hardly the first in the space), which got a patent (7,069,308) on the basics of social networking (claiming “a system and method for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks”). Lots of people pointed out the rather ridiculous amount of prior art on this patent, and feared that Friendster (by then very much an also-ran in the social networking world) was about to turn patent troll. Since then, the company has picked up a few more patents on some other aspects of social networking as well.

So, we were a bit surprised to see lots of folks sending over the news (first highlighted at Slashdot), that Amazon has been awarded a patent, 7,739,139, on a “Social networking system.”

Even though it was only filed in 2008, that’s not actually the relevant date. It’s a continuation patent — a dreadfully bad part of the patent system that is regularly abused to create “submarine” patents. While patent system defenders will deny this, the continuation process is regularly used to adjust what a patent covers over time, to make sure that it really covers more modern inventions than when it was originally filed. The Patent Office tried to stop this abuse by limiting continuations a few years ago, but a court eventually told them the USPTO couldn’t actually do that. In this case, this patent isn’t just a continuation patent, it’s a continuation patent of a continuation patent of a continuation patent of an original patent filed back in 1997.

And, because of that, we get patents like this one. Since the priority date in November of 1997, all the fancy social networking stuff actually invented elsewhere doesn’t count as prior art, but given how many such systems were built between now and then, it’s hard to see how the specific claims in this patent could possibly pass the obviousness test. Tons of companies came up with identical systems over the years, suggesting that it was clearly the next obvious progression in this area.

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Companies: amazon, friendster

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Comments on “Amazon 'Friends' Patent Office: Gets Social Networking Patent”

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Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: My favorite patent


The present inventor has created, through experimentation on a standard swing, a new and improved method of swinging.

I just love software patents.

Lastly, it should be noted that because pulling alternately on one chain and then the other resembles in some measure the movements one would use to swing from vines in a dense jungle forest, the swinging method of the present invention may be referred to by the present inventor and his sister as “Tarzan” swinging. The user may even choose to produce a Tarzan-type yell while swinging in the manner described, which more accurately replicates swinging on vines in a dense jungle forest. Actual jungle forestry is not required.

Which begs the question: has anyone ever been sued for copyright infringement on a patent application and document?

I wonder if he is going to file for a trapezoidal continuation…

Simple Mind (profile) says:

Re: A great paper about continuation patent abuse

Perhaps I lack in imagination. But I fail to think of a situation where saying a patent was a continuation of another one would ever have a meaningful use? “Duh, oh yeah, I forgot to add this one little thing to the original patent. So let me just correct that now and add this one teensy weensy thing to it and modify it a bit. And we’ll all just pretend it was always in there from the first place. ok?” Its only purpose seems to be for abuse.

Simple Mind (profile) says:

patent system fundamentally broken

First I just need to say that this patent is absurd in its generality!

But the main stupidity seems to be that they file a patent in 2008 that has tons of prior art, but get around that simply by saying the patent is a continuation of one from 1997, when there wasn’t as much obvious prior art. (I still think there was, but that is a different matter.) If you read the one from 1997 it doesn’t really have much to do with the one from 2008, so how is it they are allowed to connect them just to get around the obvious more recent prior art?


PRIOR ART( @9 afterwards )

and IRC Chat.

AND in a way one could argue that the net itself is actually designed in a way “a system and method for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks” .

Your social network at work will have various ways it uses and connects to the net and socialize to other businesses ( seeing how USA corporations have many rights of people )

Your social networks will vary by person and thus whom you connect to via the net.

how about we just patent forever the toilet and charge these twits for flushing it down the drain.

Exmaplefor #9
So after the toilet invention patent, we had to make a new patent for the lever on the toilet cause we of course over the past 6 billion years we made them included the handle but forgot it in the design of the patent. THUS can we have a new patent lasting another 6 billion years?

I would argue if your patent you put forth does not include something it should have ot make the design work then you have that patent nulled and since there is NOW prior art cause there is a device which has this included it can’t now be patented. CALL that the YOU STUPID IDIOT YOU FD THE PATENT clause.

Jose_X (profile) says:

Re: PRIOR ART( @9 afterwards )

>> I would argue if your patent you put forth does not include something it should have ot make the design work then you have that patent nulled and since there is NOW prior art cause there is a device which has this included it can’t now be patented.

Keep in mind that prior art are inventions that are spit upon by current law. Those with savviness and $$ to file as many patent claims as necessary to get it right (and sometimes with little or no desire to actually build things) get monopolies for 20 years, while brilliant inventions whose author keep themselves busy (eg, with open source software) get “well you should have patented it instead of donating it to society”.

My point is that I think patents should be automatic and $0 (like copyright) as a starting point to removing the very real bias towards the wealthy. [That or just abolish most patents.] At that point, it would be risky to sue and then find prior art since that other person could sue you. Also, it would become clearer that society functions because of how many people today don’t seek broad patents.

It’s very unfair to many inventors that don’t file patents to pretend that prior art recognition is acceptable in a world where the more greedy and wealthy among us can sign up for 20 year patent monopolies (made even more ridiculous by the submarine option).

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