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.

Filed Under: celebrities, interactions, patents
Companies: twitter

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  1. identicon
    Jeff, 21 Jan 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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