Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Patent Office Really Wants To Be Friendster's Friend

from the what's-a-bit-of-obviousness-between-friends? dept

Over the summer, Friendster received a very broad patent for social networking, even though it seemed like there was plenty of prior art (including other patents), not to mention the general obviousness of the idea. Liz Gannes, who broke the original Friendster patent story, now says that the company has received a second patent for social networking, this one focused on a method of inducing content uploads in a social network. Reading through the details, there's an awful lot of background info, and very little "there" there. Basically, it seems that the patent will let a user upload content for (or associated with) someone who is close to them in the social network. In other words, you may be able to upload photos that can be associated with a person who you know in the social network, but not for a friend of a friend. This isn't a particularly complex, or original, idea. However, far be it for the patent office to actually look at the obviousness of a patent before granting it. The more important thing, though, is the latest signaling by Friendster that it sees its patents as an asset to be leveraged (they specifically promoted the fact that they got this new patent, for instance, rather than letting it be discovered). As we've seen lately, it's becoming increasingly common for the companies that lose in the marketplace to try to hang on by resorting to patent lawsuits. It's a shame if that ends up being Friendster's real legacy.

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