Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Friendster Patents Social Networking

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the now-how-will-i-make-friends dept.

96

Pontifex maximus writes "Friendster has said that as of this week, it has a patent covering online social networks. It applied for the patent before the company's downward spiral and recent growth." From the article: "'It's way too early to say' whether the company would pursue licenses and litigation from its competitors, Friendster President Kent Lindstrom told RedHerring.com. 'We'll do what we can to protect our intellectual property.' Though the Friendster patent could be challenged in either the patent system or the courts, opponents would face an uphill battle. 'Once the patent is issued there is a presumption of validity that follows with it,' said attorney Bill Heinze of Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley."

cancel ×

96 comments

Old Process + Internet = Patent (2, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 years ago | (#15676529)

System, method and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks

A method and apparatus for calculating, displaying and acting upon relationships in a social network is described. A computer system collects descriptive data about various individuals and allows those individuals to indicate other individuals with whom they have a personal relationship. The descriptive data and the relationship data are integrated and processed to reveal the series of social relationships connecting any two individuals within a social network. The pathways connecting any two individuals can be displayed. Further, the social network itself can be displayed to any number of degrees of separation. A user of the system can determine the optimal relationship path (i.e., contact pathway) to reach desired individuals. A communications tool allows individuals in the system to be introduced (or introduce themselves) and initiate direct communication.

Sounds like the very old concept of Computer Dating just with a network added.

When, when you get right down to it, is about all most recent patents seem to be.

I think it's time I ran for president and did some serious housecleaning in the USPTO.

a car in every pot and and chicken in every garage

Re:Old Process + Internet = Patent (-1, Offtopic)

aristofanes (413195) | about 8 years ago | (#15676693)

what's with OSNews?
VONNAGE has captured their site!

False cause (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15676737)

From the article: the patent is issued there is a presumption of validity that follows with it

I like the fact that he used the word "presumption," because the fallacy of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" qualifies as a fallacy of presumption.

The patent review process is broken. Searches for prior art and other such safeguards are not being enforced. The processes that would make a presumption of validity have any weight are not being followed.

In fact, a presumption of invalidity would actually be more warranted, given current patent processes.

This is bad.

Sue NSA and AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15679658)

Will the NSA and AT&T pay them back in damages for using their patented technology?

Re:Old Process + Internet = Patent (2, Funny)

Gat0r30y (957941) | about 8 years ago | (#15676837)

I'll only vote for you if your campaign slogan is "Vote for 218170 - He's #1!"

Re:Old Process + Internet = Patent (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15676896)

well of course you'll feel that way if you only read the abstract. note: the abstract is supposed to be generic.

read the claims. in light of the specification. read the file history, look for applicant's arguments that create a judicial estoppel. look to see if 35 USC 112 6th paragraph was evoked. look for everything which makes the claims more specific and adds patentable weight. read the examiner's reasons for allowance.

bah, why bother. it's easier to just quote the title of the patent and get all "oh noes!!!their patenting teh intarnet!!"

Re:Old Process + Internet = Patent (1)

rajafarian (49150) | about 8 years ago | (#15677684)

I think it's time I ran for president and did some serious housecleaning in the USPTO.

I have a hypothesis that well-meaning folk who run for government to do great things can't resist the temptations of power and money and become corporation-loving, lying, cheating, stealing, morally corrupt, freedom-hating pricks who look at normal people as nothing but stupid, potential thieves once they get there. So be careful.

Re:Old Process + Internet = Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15679045)

I already look at normal people as nothing but stupid potential thieves, but I assure you that if elected my actions will be high minded and based on noble intentions.

But people do seem to sense my disdain for them, so I have to admit my electoral prospects are less than stellar.

Re:Old Process + Internet = Patent (1)

lloydtesterman (631379) | about 8 years ago | (#15680755)

You sound like an upstanding guy. I will run and you can head up the Patent office!

Re:Old Process + Internet = Patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15679539)

You're quoting from the specification of the patent, which doesn't tell us what Friendster has actually protected. There's only one independent claim in this patent, and it says:

1. In a computer system including a server computer and a database of registered users that stores for each registered user, a user ID of the registered user and a set of user IDs of registered users who are directly connected to the registered user,

a method for connecting a first registered user to a second registered user through one or more other registered users, the method comprising the steps of:

setting a maximum degree of separation (Nmax) of at least two that is allowed for connecting any two registered users, wherein two registered users who are directly connected are deemed to be separated by one degree of separation and two registered users who are connected through no less than one other registered user are deemed to be separated by two degrees of separation and two registered users who are connected through no less than N other registered users are deemed to be separated by N+1 degrees of separation;

searching for the user ID of the second registered user in the sets of user IDs that are stored for registered users who are less than Nmax degrees of separation away from the first registered user, and not in the sets of user IDs that are stored for registered users who are greater than or equal to Nmax degrees of separation away from the first registered user, until the user ID of the second registered user is found in one of the searched sets;

and connecting the first registered user to the second registered user if the user ID of the second registered user is found in one of the searched sets, wherein the method limits the searching of the second registered user in the sets of user IDs that are stored for registered users who are less than Nmax degrees of separation away from the first registered user, such that the first registered user and the second registered user who are separated by more than Nmax degrees of separation are not found and connected.

So they're actually only patenting the search function for their database and pretty much only the function of being able to set an Nmax to stop the search. Maybe that's a pretty obvious patent that shouldn't necessarily have issued, but it's certainly not an overly broad patent that's going to bring down the entire social networking industry.

Re:Old Process + Internet = Orkut? (1)

Kamineko (851857) | about 8 years ago | (#15681543)

Wasn't this... Orkut?

Law Talkin' Suit Filin' Web Hostin' Machine! (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 8 years ago | (#15676537)

"It's way too early to say whether the company would pursue licenses and litigation from its competitors," Friendster President Kent Lindstrom told RedHerring.com. "We'll do what we can to protect our intellectual property."
I think that last sentence means they're going to liquidate all their assets and assemble the largest all star team of lawyers since Microsoft evaded penalties even after being convicted.

Then they'll buy out Kevin Bacon when he screams prior art.

Then they'll figure out that Moneybags Rupert Murdoch owns MySpace and go after News Corp. You know, News Corp, that generically named conglomerate of multiple money sucking companies [newscorp.com] ?

There's not a lot of social networking projects that are open source or free to the communities. Every single one seems to be some ad revenue money grubbing scheme anyway. You have PeopleAggregator [slashdot.org] and maybe NovaShare [sourceforge.net] though the latter doesn't really support degrees of separation searching.

I guess if MySpace & FaceBook went away tomorrow I really wouldn't care. What I do care about is the fact that this patent is just as stupid and obvious as the Amazon patent on "methods and systems of assisting users in purchasing items." [com.com] Will we ever see these end? Probably not as long as the patent lawyers are milled out of "the world's finest educational institutions."
Though the Friendster patent could be challenged in either the patent system or the courts, opponents would face an uphill battle.
Whatever happened to the peer to patent system [slashdot.org] the USPTO was going to use? Is this thing [jot.com] a failed idea already?

Boy I'd like to throw down some discussions on this patent.

Six Degrees... (5, Informative)

Kelson (129150) | about 8 years ago | (#15676628)

Then they'll buy out Kevin Bacon when he screams prior art.

Actually, SixDegrees.com [wikipedia.org] would be a great example of prior art. The company folded in 2001, a year before Friendster launched, and two years before Friendster applied for the patent (June 2003)

Re:Six Degrees... (1)

Atroxodisse (307053) | about 8 years ago | (#15676848)

This patent is idiotic. Even a basic message forum is a social network.

Re:Six Degrees... (1)

Kelson (129150) | about 8 years ago | (#15677151)

This patent is idiotic.

I think we all agree on that here...

Even a basic message forum is a social network.

...but a basic message forum doesn't track people by relationships, which is what the patent [uspto.gov] describes:

A method and apparatus for calculating, displaying and acting upon relationships in a social network is described. A computer system collects descriptive data about various individuals and allows those individuals to indicate other individuals with whom they have a personal relationship. The descriptive data and the relationship data are integrated and processed to reveal the series of social relationships connecting any two individuals within a social network. The pathways connecting any two individuals can be displayed. Further, the social network itself can be displayed to any number of degrees of separation. A user of the system can determine the optimal relationship path (i.e., contact pathway) to reach desired individuals. A communications tool allows individuals in the system to be introduced (or introduce themselves) and initiate direct communication. [emphasis added]

That's well beyond the scope of IRC or message boards. Slashdot's friends/foes system goes a little bit in that direction, but only handles one degree at a time from what I can tell. Same with, say, LiveJournal's friends system. The abstract does, however, describe exactly the model I remember Six Degrees promoting back in the late 1990s.

Prior art examples... (2, Informative)

rossifer (581396) | about 8 years ago | (#15677245)

So is Aviri [aviri.com] . Internal corporate social networking (What are you known to be good at? Who can help me with this kind of problem?). Aviri took the basic social network and added a reputation for expertise in various subjects. Very cool concept and software, but we ran out of money before we could make it scale effectively to larger populations.

Regards,
Ross

Re:Six Degrees... (1)

swpod (963634) | about 8 years ago | (#15678026)

I'm not a lawyer, but I think it's pretty clear that SixDegrees.com provides prior art which demolishes claim 1 of the Friendster patent. If I were sued by Friendster, I would definitely subpoena their internal email archives which would might show that they were aware of SixDegrees, yet failed to list this as prior art on their patent application (which would void it).

Re:Six Degrees... (1)

discHead (3226) | about 8 years ago | (#15678336)

Exactly. I remember when Friendster came out, thinking, "Cool! It's just like Six Degrees was! Only it doesn't suck!"

Except, over time, Friendster the website has come to suck, too. :-)

Re:Six Degrees... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15679080)

If you look at the patent. It has a typo on "Small Word" should be "Small World"

sheesh! lawyers! can't even spell right!

Re:Six Degrees... (1)

krunk4ever (856261) | about 8 years ago | (#15679233)

There was also http://www.buddyzoo.com/ [buddyzoo.com] which appeared around the same time. It's no longer available, but it was started by a group of CalTech students where it allowed you to upload your AIM buddylist and type in any screenname and find out how many degrees of seperation there was. One drawback was that AIM only allowed a maximum of 200 buddies (or was it 150 back then?) and often times I had to delete people who I no longer chat with much to put in new people.

It was also nice cause they group people together called niches or something like that where all the people inside shared a common set of friends.

...of Kevin Bacon (1)

lightning_queen (861008) | about 8 years ago | (#15680387)

If you want to get technical, Mike Ginelli, Craig Fass, and Brian Turtle [wikipedia.org] should be screaming prior art, since they actually came up with the show, though Kevin Bacon could probably do so as well since he was a key part of it.

Also, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon predates SixDegrees.com by three years, so the OP was more correct.

Re:Law Talkin' Suit Filin' Web Hostin' Machine! (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about 8 years ago | (#15676648)

I think that last sentence means they're going to liquidate all their assets and assemble the largest all star team of lawyers since Microsoft evaded penalties even after being convicted.

A bit OT, but I don't think Microsoft evaded the penalties thanks to an army of competent lawyers, it was more like Bill discovered the benefits of political contributions (which they had prior shunned) and arose to sit at the left hand of God and steal Jesus' bucket of popcorn.

Then they'll figure out that Moneybags Rupert Murdoch owns MySpace and go after News Corp. You know, News Corp, that generically named conglomerate of multiple money sucking companies?

Which appears the primary reason for infusion of new capital into the utter failure Friendster was... "nope, nope, no decent assets, poor business plan, the whole thing isn't worth a bucket of spit, whoop, what's this, a patent application for Social Networking and Newscorp just bought MySpace? We'll shite my britches and call me Al Capone, get some money in here to prop it up just like another SCO!"

Re:Law Talkin' Suit Filin' Web Hostin' Machine! (1)

PhotoGuy (189467) | about 8 years ago | (#15680343)

A bit OT, but I don't think Microsoft evaded the penalties thanks to an army of competent lawyers, it was more like Bill discovered the benefits of political contributions (which they had prior shunned) and arose to sit at the left hand of God and steal Jesus' bucket of popcorn.

You can go off topic all you want, for a gem like that. Just when you think you've heard all the funny expressions, along comes "sit at the left hand of God and steal Jesus' bucket of popcorn." Lordy... Still catching my breath.

(Reminds me of one I heard my lawyer's secretary use, which is probably old, but new to me at the time... Talking about a client who "fucked the dog and sold the puppies.")

Re:Law Talkin' Suit Filin' Web Hostin' Machine! (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 8 years ago | (#15676709)

There's not a lot of social networking projects that are open source or free to the communities. Every single one seems to be some ad revenue money grubbing scheme anyway. You have PeopleAggregator and maybe NovaShare though the latter doesn't really support degrees of separation searching.
Although Livejournal (the site) [livejournal.com] might arguably fall under the money-grubbing description, Livejournal (the engine) [livejournal.org] is open source.

Re:Law Talkin' Suit Filin' Web Hostin' Machine! (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | about 8 years ago | (#15677559)

Whatever happened to the peer to patent system [slashdot.org] the USPTO was going to use? Is this thing [jot.com] a failed idea already?
If I understood properly at the time, peer to patent was a voluntary peer review. Only patents that the submitter requested be reviewed through that system were going to be. Obviously, no one knowingly submitting or owning a shady patent was going to request that their patent be reviewed.

Re:Law Talkin' Suit Filin' Web Hostin' Machine! (1)

zen-theorist (930637) | about 8 years ago | (#15678899)

Probably not as long as the patent lawyers are milled out of "the world's finest educational institutions.
Wait, didnt Idaho State file a patent 2 years ago describing a method to assimilate transfer information to certain individuals, hereby referred to as students, in a process hereby referred to as education?

Re:Law Talkin' Suit Filin' Web Hostin' Machine! (1)

TechnologyX (743745) | about 8 years ago | (#15680572)

Leave it to the OSS faggots to somehow spin this story into a Microsoft bash. OMG THEY DIDNT PAY PENALITIES. Oh wait, maybe it's because they weren't a monopoly to begin with? Are there no other OS' out there? Yes, there are, and they suck fucking cock you shitfuck.

Prior Art? (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 8 years ago | (#15676554)

From the patent:
"System, method and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks"

Isn't this called IRC?

Prior Art Indeed (2, Funny)

atari2600 (545988) | about 8 years ago | (#15676590)

It's called Slashdot. Here a bunch of single male geeks (for most part) connect together (and flame together!) in an online computer system based on their relationships (or lack of them). Go taco - go sue them! Atari2.6k PS: I am a single male geek and /. is my life *shes a tear*

Re:Prior Art Indeed (1)

honkycat (249849) | about 8 years ago | (#15677204)

a bunch of single male geeks
I misread that as "single malt geeks." Personally, I'm more of a bourbon geek...

Re:Prior Art Indeed (1)

winnabago (949419) | about 8 years ago | (#15678051)

Shouldn't that read "she's a tear"?

Re:Prior Art Indeed (1)

Manmademan (952354) | about 8 years ago | (#15678896)

I think he was trying for "sheds a tear." Good guess though!

Re:Prior Art? Yes, by 34 YEARS!!! (2, Informative)

Jerry (6400) | about 8 years ago | (#15678515)

http://webcenters.netscape.compuserve.com/menu/abo ut.jsp?floc=DC-headnav1 [compuserve.com]
"An Internet Pioneer

Founded in 1969 as a computer time-sharing service, Columbus, Ohio-based CompuServe drove the initial emergence of the online service industry. In 1979, CompuServe became the first service to offer electronic mail capabilities and technical support to personal computer users. CompuServe broke new ground again in 1980 as the first online service to offer real-time chat online with its CB Simulator. By 1982, the company had formed its Network Services Division to provide wide-area networking capabilities to corporate clients.


CompuServe also led the interactive services industry overseas, entering the international arena in Japan in 1986 with Fujitsu and Nisso Iwai, developing a Japanese-language version of CompuServe called NIFTYSERVE. In 1989, the company expanded into Europe where it grew to be a leading Internet service provider.

A Key Brand

Since February 1998, CompuServe has been a wholly owned subsidiary of America Online, Inc. As part of the AOL Web Properties group, CompuServe plays an important role by providing Internet connectivity for value-minded consumers seeking both a dependable connection to the Internet and all the features and power of an online service. "


The original CompuServe was in competition with hundres of local Bulletin Board Systems. I was a user/member of several of them between 1979 until I connected to the Internet via dialup in the mid 90's. Some were social and some were professional BBSs.


All of them predate this "Intellectual Property".


When will the patent office award a patent for breathing? The way the USTPO agents work, or don't work, it won't be long now.

I'm still waiting for someone to file a patent... (1, Funny)

Avillia (871800) | about 8 years ago | (#15676566)

On useless, stupid, generic patents which are otherwise covered by prior art and have existed in some incarnation for years.

Of course, then every day would be a slow news day on Slashdot.

Re:I'm still waiting for someone to file a patent. (2, Insightful)

Megaweapon (25185) | about 8 years ago | (#15676716)

Or a patent on the same, predictable Slashdot "patent" jokes that get rehashed in every single patent thread.

Re:I'm still waiting for someone to file a patent. (1)

jimibee (980271) | about 8 years ago | (#15677667)

Or a patent on the same, predictable Slashdot "patent on predictable Slashdot patent joke" jokes that get rehashed in every single patent thread.

they are just (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15676571)

sore losers

Well, I'm going to steal their thunder... (2, Funny)

icebrain (944107) | about 8 years ago | (#15676573)

and file a patent for "social connections." I will call my invention a "friend."

Re:Well, I'm going to steal their thunder... (5, Funny)

Pearson (953531) | about 8 years ago | (#15676661)

Your term "friend" is clearly derived from our company name "Friendster." See you in court!! >:) Sincerely, K. Lindstrom

Re:Well, I'm going to steal their thunder... (1)

bitbucketeer (892710) | about 8 years ago | (#15677283)

Cool. I'm rushing down right now to patent my invention that I call "enemy." Then I'll sue you because a "friend" is just an "enemy" that you're naive enough to trust.

My patent (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15676602)

Hi, I just patented breathing oxygen...that's $1 for every breath you take or else you will all die from suffocation.

Instant profitability (4, Informative)

Billosaur (927319) | about 8 years ago | (#15676615)

Friendster has never been profitable, but it is now on that track, Mr. Lindstrom said. The company makes money from ad sales in the United States and SMS in Asia, where users can subscribe to pay for phone alerts when their friends update their profiles.

Of course it's on that track... the lawyers are warming up in the bullpen. Expect a spate of lawsuits within the next 6 months, trying to milk money out of anyone and everyone who might even be thought to be violating the patent. As usual, the USPTO has totally overlooked how generic the patent is and once more a software patnet threatens to gum up the works. Two words: patent reform.

Re:Instant profitability (1)

killeroffoil (971229) | about 8 years ago | (#15676912)

A friend of mine just started working at the USPTO and quickly discovered the biggest problem with todays patent system. Employee's get raises based on quantity alone. So when review time comes up the supervisors look only at how many patents you have approved and quality is not a factor that is considered. They are apparently working on revising the system so that quality is, at the very least, given some consideration, but until this gets fixed it's going to be hard to change much.

Re:Instant profitability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15678822)

A half-step worse...
They're given bonuses not on quantity of patents processed, but patents -accepted-. A refused patent (which can take a patent worker some serious time) is worthless to them...

At least, so I'm told. Recipe includes one grain salt.

Re:Instant profitability (1)

mavenguy (126559) | about 8 years ago | (#15679570)

Technically, priduction is measured by a rate described as "Hours per Balanced Disposal" A Balenced Disposal is calculated by counting, during ther time period under consideration (the "Hours") all the first actions on the merits (whether a rejection, an allowance, or an express abandoment), adding to that the nuber of disposals (Allowances, Abandonments, and Appeals) then dividing by 2. Each examiner is given an expectancy (based on the specific area of technology to which he/she is assigned, grade, level of signatory authority, and possible "extra credit" items like "senior examiner" or "expert examiner") and a percent achievment is then calculated.

The minimum achievement to be considered "satisfactory" is 95% (25 years ago this was 75%), but supervisors tend to harass examiners who do not make 100%, and some perssure them to do at least 105% or even more. There is a quality element that also, formally must be met, but it takes work to review the art of record to see if there were good grounds to reject a claim allowed by the examiner (and the chances are that the reviewer is less familiar with the art than the reviewee), and it takes "exponentially more work for a reviewer to search for additional, better prior art then is of record in the application (cited by both the examiner and the applicant).

With the emphasis over the last 40 years or so being to "reduce pendency", and, when evaluating an examiner's performance, the production requirement is automatically computed for each biweek, each quarter, and each fiscal year, the supervisor just looks at the report. To justify a quality deficiency takes work to look at/find prior art and then justify why a rejection should be proper. The result: emphasizing production doevtails with reducing pendency; quality almost always comes up hit or miss when raised by infrequent quality reviews or when the crap hits the fan from outside.

The management is so wrapped up in its production and application management mentality that it is having a hard time tackling the quality issues it finally realizes it must address. From what I have heard they are tackling this by imposing more review processes; unfortuantely they haven't allowed for more time for all this reviewing, so the net is just more mostly ineffective procedures that leave less time to actually perform the examining function (such as search for the best prior art). It's like adding more inspections to a faulty production line rather than fix the root problem. And don't jsut say they just need to hire competant people; The turnover in the examing core is massive and they just can't keep people, and then they wonder "why?"

Re:Instant profitability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15678284)

Two words: patent reform.
Thanks, but I can count that high by myself.

Little do they know... (1, Funny)

Peter Trepan (572016) | about 8 years ago | (#15676632)

I've patented the process of affecting hipness in order to obtain paper friendships within an online community. Soon I'll 0wn Friendster and MySpace both!

Re:Little do they know... (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 8 years ago | (#15677509)

Ingenius! Just for that, I'm going to click that little green Slashdot button that selects you as my... oh, crap. Please don't sue me.

Just another example of how the USPTO is broken. (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about 8 years ago | (#15676655)

Before we talk and bitch about this company and how obvious it is, this is just another example to show broken the system is - this company is simply taking advantage of it.

Bureacracies always reach out and try to take more power - once patents simply protected implementations - now the patent office is reaching out to get a stranglehold on stuff like "business methods" and algorithms (math) and essentially ideas - many of them common sense to the problem being solved.

Patents are for society, not the individual. It's supposed to push progress forward by opening non-obvious ideas for everyone for a limited time. Not MONOPOLIZE obvious ideas for the benefit of one person against the rest of society.

To fix patents, we don't need more patent clerks (federal employees), we need to:

1. Go back to old way patents were done - which includes working implementation upon application. Thus ideas become unpatentable. Same with business methods. It will also render 90% all the unreadable legalese to obscure what you are patenting obsolete.

2. Punish non-English application. No, I don't mean application in a foreign language, just the ones that read like they are. Plain english is a must. Jail time in Gitmo otherwise.

3. Raise price to apply for patent to $5,000-50,000 depending on whether it is an individual, small company or large corporation (refundable only on recieving a patent) - while it may seem to screw the "little guy" it actually will kill corporations trying to patent every little thing. Even a little operation will be able to afford to patent 1 WORTHWHILE application, but will corporate America still be able to afford to apply for 10's of thousands of trivial patents?

4. Part of application fee (say 1/2) will go as a bounty to anybody who can disprove it - in other words show prior art, etcetera. This could be anybody - college students, professors, employees of another company. This will also lower amount of patents applied and speed up patenting time.

Why hire clueless clerks when you could flocks of knowleable people examining patents because of a profit motive to turn them down? They won't have the power to deny a patent, they bring the case against it.

5. No renewable patents. Lower patent length from 17 years to 9-10 years or so. Back in the 1700's, business and the pace of life overall was slower, let's reflect that.

Re:Just another example of how the USPTO is broken (3, Informative)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | about 8 years ago | (#15676775)

will corporate America still be able to afford to apply for 10's of thousands of trivial patents?

Yes. It will follow the same process that spamming does. They only need a marginal rate of return to jusitfy the expense.

$50,000/patent * 1000 patents = $50 million

One successful patent litigation = $500 million award

That is a 1000% return on investment.

They can then use the other 999 patents as leverage to bargain with the other large corporations.

I whole-heartedly agree with point #1 though.

Re:Just another example of how the USPTO is broken (1)

Wah (30840) | about 8 years ago | (#15679109)

Yes. It will follow the same process that spamming does. They only need a marginal rate of return to jusitfy the expense.

While this may be true, raising the expense changes the nature of the equation...and anything would be an improvement over the situation today.

BTW, I'm sure most are aware, but the Supreme Court is currently looking at this question [com.com] (the obvious part). If any of you hang out with SC justices, mentioning this latest retardation might help us all.

Re:Just another example of how the USPTO is broken (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15676864)

I'm with ya. Good post and right on target..

Re:Just another example of how the USPTO is broken (1)

kansas1051 (720008) | about 8 years ago | (#15677237)

1. Go back to old way patents were done - which includes working implementation upon application. Thus ideas become unpatentable. Same with business methods. It will also render 90% all the unreadable legalese to obscure what you are patenting obsolete.

A working model (actual reduction to practice) hasn't been required in the US since the 1836 patent act -- the U.S. patent system before 1836 was an absolute mess, 1/3 of all issued patents were tied up in court. A working model system also hurts small companies and independent inventors, who may not have the money to travel to DC to exhibit their invention (which was the reason the requirement was dropped for inventions other than heavier-than-air flying machines and other inventions of "incredible" utility).

2. Punish non-English application. No, I don't mean application in a foreign language, just the ones that read like they are. Plain english is a must. Jail time in Gitmo otherwise.

Slashdot covered this issue a few days ago: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/06/163121 1 [slashdot.org] , with the general consensus being that people should use formal English and not common or phonetic English. Perhaps we should just put all educated people in Gitmo -- that way no problems with patents or excess vocabulary.

3. Raise price to apply for patent to $5,000-50,000 depending on whether it is an individual, small company or large corporation (refundable only on receiving a patent) - while it may seem to screw the "little guy" it actually will kill corporations trying to patent every little thing. Even a little operation will be able to afford to patent 1 WORTHWHILE application, but will corporate America still be able to afford to apply for 10's of thousands of trivial patents?

The current average cost of paying an attorney to prosecute an application to issuance is in excess of $15,000. A few extra dollars wont deter IBM from filing 1000 applications / week.

4. Part of application fee (say 1/2) will go as a bounty to anybody who can disprove it - in other words show prior art, etcetera. This could be anybody - college students, professors, employees of another company. This will also lower amount of patents applied and speed up patenting time.

If there is no fee for a third party to challenge a patent/application, then the USPTO will spend all its time hearing challenges --- people will simply challenge every patent ever granted and let the USPTO sort things out. There are current and effective methods of challenging granted patents -- reexaminations --, which are used effectively by many and due to a nominal fee (less than a thousand dollars), people don't abuse the process.

Re:Just another example of how the USPTO is broken (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 8 years ago | (#15677432)

Nice post. Completely worthy of the Insightful mod. And I pretty much agree with all of it.

Best line in the whole thing though:

Jail time in Gitmo otherwise.

Ah, thanks. You made my Friday...

(and for those of you whose EmotiMeter (patent pending) is not working I am not being sarcastic, I totally agree with the post
and while it may seem over the top "jail time in gitmo" actually seems appropriate given the current patent situation in the US).

Re:Just another example of how the USPTO is broken (2, Informative)

Dausha (546002) | about 8 years ago | (#15678761)

"1. Go back to old way patents were done - which includes working implementation upon application. Thus ideas become unpatentable. Same with business methods. It will also render 90% all the unreadable legalese to obscure what you are patenting obsolete."

From what I gather, the business method bar on patents was considered a bad judicial opinion. The statute is silent on this, and prior courts inserted the bar. So, if you want to fix this, just persuade your Congressmen to amend the statute.

And, these implementations can be done. The fact that another poster mentioned the SixDegrees.com is one example. Claim 9 of the patent has been done for years before the 2003 posting. Several of the other claims look rather easy to defeat.

It reminds me of a patent I saw a few weeks back. Somebody invented the pocket handkerchef in 2000, including methods for folding. The entire patent was accepted. A supplimental patent was issued that revoked all the claims--effectively deleting the patent.

Actually, the patent mentions 4 being the number of degrees of separation (probably the default), and that the degrees could be set by the computer operator. So, you could circumvent this patent by setting the number to any number _but_ four, and by not allowing the operator (I would think this is the user and not administrator) to set this value.

"2. Punish non-English application. No, I don't mean application in a foreign language, just the ones that read like they are. Plain english is a must. Jail time in Gitmo otherwise."

That's one of the requirements: that somebody competent in the field should be able to take the patent claims and specs and reproduce that is described. Just looking over the patent, I recognize quite a few things that I've been doing for nearly a decade now.

"4. Part of application fee (say 1/2) will go as a bounty to anybody who can disprove it - in other words show prior art, etcetera. This could be anybody - college students, professors, employees of another company. This will also lower amount of patents applied and speed up patenting time."

I don't think this is a good idea. The current system requires that the patent holder sue an alleged patent infringer, then allow the patent infringer to contest the validity of the patent. The bounty system increases the amount of litigation with people rushing to prove invalidity to get the bounty. This is not economical from a judicial perspective.

"Why hire clueless clerks when you could flocks of knowleable people examining patents because of a profit motive to turn them down? They won't have the power to deny a patent, they bring the case against it."

The clerks aren't clueless. They're supposed to be subject-matter experts. But, as I mentioned with the handkerchef patent, they are likely overworked. Then again, they are government employees--so for some _any_ work is overwork.

"5. No renewable patents. Lower patent length from 17 years to 9-10 years or so. Back in the 1700's, business and the pace of life overall was slower, let's reflect that."

Patents aren't renewable. The patent length is 20 years, less for certain types of patents. Perhaps what should be done is create a software patent that shortens the cycle to 7 years. Why seven instead of 9-10? Any number would be arbitrary without some analysis that shows how long such a patent is truely valuable. Patents exist to coax the inventor to publicize his invention by giving him a temporary right to exclude others from using it. The alternative is to allow the ideas to be protected by trade secret, which might bury certain ideas longer than if we had a patent system.

As far as temporary monopolies are concerned, I have a bigger beef with copyrights. I would rather see copyrights 1) shortened to 14 years renewable to a maximum of 28 years, and 2) all copyrighted works prior to 1976 not be covered by the Copyright Act of 1976. The statute allowed the Act to be retro-active, but that deprived the public domain of many works. Presently, if I wrote a book at 20 (16 years ago), and live my full live expectancy (78 year), then my book would not enter public domain until 153 years after it was written. Why should something written in 1990 not be available until 2143? I mean, the rules against perpetuity assume the life of those in being plus 21 years, and this Act (with amendments) goes well beyond.

OMGWTFBBQ (2, Insightful)

theCat (36907) | about 8 years ago | (#15676665)

Next, someone is going to patent "user-submitted content used to build a web site" and we will have nicely painted ourselves into a fine corner. It's out there somewhere, winding its way slowly thru the patent system. Just wait for it.

This is nuts (2, Insightful)

JPribe (946570) | about 8 years ago | (#15676703)

Can't someone just sue the USGov for being ignorant? Or, should I patent being ignorant?

Re:This is nuts (1)

LaurieDash (983898) | about 8 years ago | (#15677694)

Can't someone just sue the USGov for being ignorant? Or, should I patent being ignorant?


I think microsoft already got that one.

Re:This is nuts (1)

JPribe (946570) | about 8 years ago | (#15679421)

hmmmph. Good point...-(bows)-

Is it too late to patent "antisocial networking"? (2, Funny)

the_REAL_sam (670858) | about 8 years ago | (#15676732)

Dang. Is it too late to patent "antisocial networking"?

Seriously though, there are already tons of websites doing that, right? Myspace, Hi5, every single chat engine in the world, online email services that allow you to remember your friends' email addresses.

To qualify for a patent they have to be able to demonstrate that their idea would not be obvious to the most people (or the average person?) in their field. In this case, the field has already demonstrated that the idea is obvious, since the entire field has already done it.

Re:Is it too late to patent "antisocial networking (1)

geoffspear (692508) | about 8 years ago | (#15677467)

You have no idea what "obvious" means in the sense used in patent law.

The fact that everyone is doing something doesn't make it obvious, if they all started doing it after the person who patented it and showed them how it was done.

That said, when sixdegrees did it, this kind of social networking was innovative. And I don't believe for a second that the people at Friendster aren't aware of sixdegrees prior art or that they honestly believe they came up with an original idea.

Re:Is it too late to patent "antisocial networking (1)

the_REAL_sam (670858) | about 8 years ago | (#15679250)

No, in fact, I DO have a good idea of what "obvious" means. But what was implemented at the time of "friendster" doesn't have anything to do with whether the current ideal "social networking" solution was obvious to those who had theretofore failed to implement it. There's what they'd made and what they'd like to have made. Just b/c they haven't made it yet doesn't mean that they WOULDN'T have made it, given the resources and/or the time. (Just as the inventor need not ever have built what's in their blueprint.)

Everyone has worked towards the same thing with regard to internet communication; so they finally came up with a "look and feel" that yielded fast results? So what?

Remember the LOOK AND FEEL lawsuit between microsoft and apple, regarding windows. Apple lost their case, even though they came up with "windowing" before microsoft.

The court ruled that the LOOK and FEEL were not patentable.

By the same token, hyperlinks to lists of friends or their email addresses (or things like "one click shopping") are not, and should not be, patentable.

Re:Is it too late to patent "antisocial networking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15684088)

> Remember the LOOK AND FEEL lawsuit between microsoft and apple, regarding windows.
> Apple lost their case, even though they came up with "windowing" before microsoft.
> The court ruled that the LOOK and FEEL were not patentable.

Sorry, that's a bad example because:
* It was a copyright case, not a patent case
* Apple didn't come up with "windowing"
* The court ruled that the majority of GUI elements (179 out of 189) *were* copyrightable, but that Apple had already licensed them to Microsoft

Re:Is it too late to patent "antisocial networking (1)

bit01 (644603) | about 8 years ago | (#15680844)

You have no idea what "obvious" means in the sense used in patent law.

And you seem to have no idea what "obvious" means in real life.

Just because the PTO is currently using a bogus definition of "obvious" doesn't somehow make it okay.

A lot of ideas are "ideas whose time has come". They are obvious to people in the field because the conditions are right and are going to be independently reinvented many times.

The fact that patent law can't even cope with something as simple as that shows just how badly broken patent law is.

---

Creating simple artificial scarcity with copyright and patents on things that can be copied billions of times at minimal cost is a fundamentally stupid economic idea.

Re:Is it too late to patent "antisocial networking (1)

geoffspear (692508) | about 8 years ago | (#15682732)

Ah, Hegelian metaphysics.

Yeah, I didn't believe it when Marx used it to claim that Communism would inevitably arise through deterministic processes when the time was right, and I don't believe it now.

The new lottery and privileges system in one (3, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | about 8 years ago | (#15676745)

The patent system has come to resemble the old English charters that granted the "right to trade with other nations" to selected merchants. Now it's "only" the right to enter one's own native economy and produce. My, how things have changed. And when it's not that bad, it's a lottery ticket for the lucky company that can sue the pants off of another.

On the bright side, nothing makes a typical lawyer's brain implode as quickly as having to justify software patents as not being patents on ideas themselves. An algorithm is just an idea. Yet we allow them to patent the algorithm in its abstract form. Imagine that. The whole idea of the patent system being violated because non-technical people just don't get it.

The arguments for these patents, that they benefit the little guy, almost sound like a bad attempt at "social justice" rhetoric from my fellow capitalists. Capitalism is not about the little guy, it's about property rights. It has no concept of fairness except allowing people to keep their own property secure. Screw all of the aforementioned crap. Let's truly maximize property rights with a new legal idea of "the right to make new property."

Adam Smith is rolling in his grave (1)

hellfire (86129) | about 8 years ago | (#15679624)

The arguments for these patents, that they benefit the little guy, almost sound like a bad attempt at "social justice" rhetoric from my fellow capitalists. Capitalism is not about the little guy, it's about property rights. It has no concept of fairness except allowing people to keep their own property secure. Screw all of the aforementioned crap. Let's truly maximize property rights with a new legal idea of "the right to make new property."

Just to set things straight, I don't think this was the vision Adam Smith had for capitalism. I would call what you just said as "american capitalism" which blindly believes that 1) The free market solves everything and 2) that the american market is in fact free. Neither of these things is true, and if Adam were to see the situation we have in the US we have now, I would think he would agree with many of us who think the american market is not truly as free as it should be.

A friendship patent (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 8 years ago | (#15676778)

Why don't they just patent friendship (I never used friendster, I don't know what it does exactly, is it like a chatroom with blogs and forums?) I bet someone can file a friendship patent and even get the rights for it. Will it be difficult to show prior art in court?

OMG! Breaking News! (1)

cashman73 (855518) | about 8 years ago | (#15676785)

Wow! Friendster just patented the all new concept of social networking!!!! Somebody get Ric Romero, quick! This is BIG NEWS! :-)

The Patent House of Horrors at /. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15676795)

Howdy folks! Come on in. I see your post count is higher than this here tiny signpost, so feel free to enter the patent house of horrors at Slashdot...

Oooh. Here comes the deluge of "Oh yeah, I'm going to patent ..." posts! You'll want to avoid these at all costs - most are obvious, and all are interchangeable - none are funny. If you proceed carefully around this corner, try to make out some of the "Prior Art" posts on the left, and there, on the right. These are often quite interesting. Did you bring your blindfolds (NetHackers I'm talking to you)? Good. Make sure you keep them handy when coming across posts that think Copyright, Trademarks and Patents are interchangeable. These can actually burn the eyes.

Remember, making your way around YRO Patent topics can be fun. Just tread cautiously and don't take anything too seriously. Especially off topic RIAA rants (those are just here to entertain) Enjoy the show!

MySpace sucks anyway... (0, Offtopic)

Devil's BSD (562630) | about 8 years ago | (#15676797)

I know I'm in the minority, but I would be more than happy if Myspace disappeared tomorrow. After seeing some myspace pages, I am convinced that a) people with epilepsy shouldn't go to MySpace pages created by today's "teenie boppers", b) today's youth must have really good eyes, because even I, at the ripe old age of 19, have trouble reading yellow text on white backgrounds, and c) Web page design really should be left up to professionals.

Oh yeah? (0, Redundant)

Forrest Kyle (955623) | about 8 years ago | (#15676801)

Well I'm going to patent "Stupid Bullshit" and file suit against 90% of all patent holders. =(

PGP WoT (2, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | about 8 years ago | (#15676859)

A method and apparatus for calculating, displaying and acting upon relationships in a social network is described. A computer system collects descriptive data about various individuals and allows those individuals to indicate other individuals with whom they have a personal relationship. The descriptive data and the relationship data are integrated and processed to reveal the series of social relationships connecting any two individuals within a social network. The pathways connecting any two individuals can be displayed. Further, the social network itself can be displayed to any number of degrees of separation. A user of the system can determine the optimal relationship path (i.e., contact pathway) to reach desired individuals. A communications tool allows individuals in the system to be introduced (or introduce themselves) and initiate direct communication.

Damn, they're going to use their 2003 patent to sue Phil Zimmermann for something he implemented a decade and a half earlier. Oh wait, PGP didn't include a "communication tool" -- it's too bad that its users never made the innovative leap of using it in combination with email.

hehe (3, Funny)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | about 8 years ago | (#15676869)

I forwarded this to my work email group. Outlook's spellcheck suggested I change "Friendster' to "Fraudster." How apropos...

6degrees.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15676991)

Anyone remember the site 6degrees.com ? It was in 1996 or 1997 iirc
It was a social networking website, and people were linked to others based on the trick that you are at most in a 6 degrees of known to everyone else on the planet. (sorry for my english)

Accidental infringement (2, Funny)

Ithika (703697) | about 8 years ago | (#15677100)

I don't think there will be any slashdotters accidentally infringing on the patent of making friends.

Re:Accidental infringement (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | about 8 years ago | (#15677458)

With a joke like that, I'm glad you included yourself in your estimate.

Amazing (1)

symbolic (11752) | about 8 years ago | (#15677106)


Witness the continued destruction of a free market economy via the patent office.

Challenging presumptions (1)

sugarmotor (621907) | about 8 years ago | (#15677298)

From the article:
'Once the patent is issued there is a presumption of validity that follows with it,' said attorney Bill Heinze

I think that should be challenged in a court, and it easily could be. But my guess is that Patent Lawyers don't want to challenge it because it is the foundation of their work.

There should be enough opportunities to do so, at any rate.

Stephan

What The Hell (1)

lbmouse (473316) | about 8 years ago | (#15677588)

I might as well apply for a patent covering "Social Sex Networks". Now if you know of any prior art, I'll need proof. Send pictures :).

How long before...? (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 8 years ago | (#15677596)

...has a patent covering online social networks.

And how long before gathering at the street corner with a case of suds will require paying royalties?

Patents are for people who can't compete with their product in the market otherwise.

Choices, choices... (1)

RyoShin (610051) | about 8 years ago | (#15677632)

On the one hand, this a bastard of a patent. Patent law reform, change in the system, blah blah, it all needs to happen, because this is what we get otherwise.

On the other hand, this could get rid of MySpace.

Which side to choose, which side to choose...

liability 4U (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 8 years ago | (#15677814)

The religious right are looking for someone to make responsible for the sin on "social networks". If these morons enforce that patent they are positioning themselves as the responsible party.

Catalyst (1)

Eric Savage (28245) | about 8 years ago | (#15678063)

If these guys sue and have any affect on MySpace, that might be the mainstream call-to-action that patent reform is sorely lacking....

A Letter to the USPTO (1)

LeoDioxide (836870) | about 8 years ago | (#15678565)

Dear USPTO, You dumb fucks. Sincerely, 1/2 of the Internet

Re:A Letter to the USPTO (2, Funny)

GigG (887839) | about 8 years ago | (#15678679)

Dear USPTO, You REALLY dumb fucks. Sincerely, The other 1/2 of the Internet.

Another ridiculous patent (1)

AriaStar (964558) | about 8 years ago | (#15679515)

The government needs to quit giving these patents so easily. The patent is free. The price comes in the application cost. From personal experience obtaining a patent, I can tell you that it's a long process, but an overly-simple one in the end. To say one company now owns the right to online social networking is insane.

The wording on their application is not specific by any means. Many websites have a form of networking based on interests, not only MySpace, but places such as LiveJournal where you can search for people based on interest and location. Considering social networking wasn't as big three years ago as it is today, Friendster has just been the recipient of a miracle.

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15679867)

http://www.lunarstorm.se/ [lunarstorm.se] has been around since before 2000 ... It is a swedish site...

well.. (1)

modpod (733098) | about 8 years ago | (#15680283)

sorry, I'm not buying it. Tribe has been around for 8 years. I'm really irritated by the recent impending media blitz on social networking sites. We _will_ not pay attention to ads, I really don't see why large corporations see the need to control these jewels of the internet.

shiFt (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15680336)

FOR *BSD BECAUSE [goat.cx]

Anyone remember the "Six Degrees Patent"? (1)

scsscs (669925) | about 8 years ago | (#15680836)

The "Six Degrees Patent," #6,175,831 [uspto.gov] , was sold for $700,000 to LinkedIn and Tribe.net in 2003. It was supposed to be the social networking patent. Can anyone that understands these things compare the two and explain the differences?

Is there a patent yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15681054)

for kicking some idiot like this in the balls?

What about really really hard?

What about if I add the word "online" to it somewhere?

I've run out of phrases... (1)

McFadden (809368) | about 8 years ago | (#15681307)

It's no longer possible to say that I'm sick of hearing about this total and utter nonsense. Where did the human race take such a drastically wrong turn that we ended up with this type of decision making the people we place our trust in? I think I must have reached the point of being sick of being sick of it.

Re:I've run out of phrases... (1)

muuh-gnu (894733) | about 8 years ago | (#15682152)

> Where did the human race take such a drastically wrong turn that we ended up with this type of decision making the people we place our trust in?

It actually isn't the "human race", but only the US software patent system.

Just a Thought (1)

stromthurman (588355) | about 8 years ago | (#15682870)

I will not comment on the obviousness (or non-obviousness) of this patent, but I would like to point out the following:

"[F]or a court to find infringement, the plaintiff must show the presence of every element or its substantial equivalent in the accused device." Wolverine World Wide, Inc. v. Nike, Inc., 38 F.3d 1192, 1199 (Fed. Cir. 1994)
-Wikipedia entry on Patent Infringement [wikipedia.org]

If this is true, and every claim must be violated, then to avoid infringement there are a number of things a developer can do:

  1. Use more or less than 4 degrees of separation (claim 7 of Friendster patent)
  2. Do not store email addresses for unregistered users (claim 8) [how to send invitations without storing email addresses in a database is left as an excercise to the reader.]
  3. Do not hyperlink the entire "connection path" between two registered users. (claim 5)

It is important to note that I am not a lawyer, and this is not to be construed as legal advice. The validity of what I am suggesting hinges on the notion that all claims of a patent must be infringed for the patent to be infringed upon. I do not know for certain that this is the case.

Check for New Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...