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Facebook Patents Your Rights Online

Facebook Locks Down Social Gift Giving Patent 185

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-presents-for-you dept.
bizwriter writes "Facebook has been on a roll of late, nailing a number of patent grants that will help it retain dominance in social networking by creating barriers for competitors. Yesterday came patent number 7,970,657, 'Giving gifts and displaying assets in a social network environment'. Although it doesn't directly prevent other social networks from enabling gift giving among users, a clever legal and technical maneuver makes it far more difficult."
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Facebook Locks Down Social Gift Giving Patent

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  • WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:49AM (#36609722)

    What's the point of patenting things anymore if the "design", "process" or "technology" is so trivial as this? I may as well go ahead with my patent for "any method of expulsion of bodily fluids" - as dumb as the USPTO is, they'll probably grant it. Prior art be damned.

    • by Tasha26 (1613349)
      I thought UPSTO was trying to clean its image by not granting anymore stupid patents this year?
      • Well, it would seem you have been misinformed.

      • by kimvette (919543)

        Unfortunately they can't without paying royalties; that business method has already been patented.

      • Actually, the general thrust of the most recent message coming from the congress critters (not yet "passed" legislation) was to speed up the process and move to first to file. Stupid patents received honorable mention but was really only placed on there as an unrelated decoration for the purpose of providing a talking point during the up and coming election cycle.
      • by metacell (523607)

        I thought UPSTO was trying to clean its image by not granting anymore stupid patents this year?

        Unfortunately, someone already had a patent on "A method for screening and selectively approving patent applications through a process of obviousness estimation".

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      and what about prior museums (with the quantity of sites already doing this, prior art just doesn't have the right context)?

    • The USPTO is not "dumb"; they just have quotas to fill.

  • europe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by chris.alex.thomas (1718644) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:49AM (#36609732) Homepage
    In europe I doubt many people will care much, I'll write my software without fear of software patents and just scrub off the USA from my list of places to visit, then when the legal letter arrives with "you must stop using our " I'll throw it in the bin and carry on with my life. If you live in a truely free country, you don't tend to care what other legal systems say, what matters, is what your country says... I love europe sometimes, although I hope that they don't change the whole "patents are not valid in europe" thingy.....and lets hope I don't bump into any "rendition crews" :)
    • by t2t10 (1909766) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:55AM (#36609786)

      Yeah, and that will happen after you launch a successful Facebook competitor and become a gazillionaire, right? These patents matter because the few companies that could possibly compete with facebook are global.

      As for "truly free", Europe has serious restrictions on freedom of expression, much more onerous copyright restrictions (no fair use, for example), and strong limits on competition; in comparison, software patents are a small issue. And software patents are being pushed onto the member countries through the EU.

      • by max (79752)

        "Serious restrictions on freedom of expression"? It would be nice to know WHAT part of Europe you are referring to. IMHO, the country I live in stille are more free when it comes to expression than the US. The copyright restrictions pushed on us now are backed by interests over in the great media publishing giant in the west, and the limits on competition as you call it is to *protect* competition from being destroyed by a monopoly-like situation.

        I seriously doubt that software patents are pushed onto the e

        • by jpapon (1877296)

          "Serious restrictions on freedom of expression"? It would be nice to know WHAT part of Europe you are referring to

          Well, for example, the fact that in the U.K. you can place anonymous gagging orders on newspapers so that they can't publish facts about you.

          • by Canazza (1428553)

            They don't work either. I think we should rename the "Streisand Effect" to the "RYAN GIGGS HAD AN AFFAIR Effect"

          • by ktappe (747125)

            "Serious restrictions on freedom of expression"? It would be nice to know WHAT part of Europe you are referring to

            Well, for example, the fact that in the U.K. you can place anonymous gagging orders on newspapers so that they can't publish facts about you.

            Or also in the U.K. how you cannot play music to your horses because that is considered a "public performance." [telegraph.co.uk]

            • by metacell (523607)

              To be fair, as ridiculous as copyright has become, there were people working in the stable who would also be listening to the music, even if it was involuntarily.

        • by t2t10 (1909766)

          "Serious restrictions on freedom of expression"? It would be nice to know WHAT part of Europe you are referring to.

          Most of them.

          IMHO, the country I live in stille are more free when it comes to expression than the US.

          Really? What enlightened place would that be? Can't be Germany, France, UK, Russia, Italy, or Spain.

          The copyright restrictions pushed on us now are backed by interests over in the great media publishing giant in the west,

          You don't know squat. The current copyright regime was mostly imposed b

      • by ThinkWeak (958195)
        What is the definition of a Social Network? Couldn't every MMORPG out there be considered a social network?
        • by jpapon (1877296)
          I tried to find a definition of it in the patent, but of the 159 instances of "social network" they used, only one comes anywhere close to defining what a social network is.

          Conventionally, a user of a networking website connects with other users by providing information about the user to a social network website for access by the other users. For example, a user may post contact information, background information, current job position, hobbies, and so forth. Information about personal events may also be posted by a user, for example on personal webpages, web logs (BLOGS), etc. Such posts may include information about gifts received, gifts given, purchases made, etc. Other users may contact the user and/or review information about the user based on common interests or for any other reason.

          As for MMORPGs, I would say they contain social networks (such as a guild, or a friends list), but are not strictly speaking social networks themselves. Of course this is all a bunch of nonsense anyways.

          I said several years ago that software patents would soon reach a level of absurdity that would make it impossible to justify their c

          • by KDR_11k (778916)

            This definition would include the community features in Steam. Of course Steam also supports gift giving.

          • Bah! The patent system jumped the shark when they patented swinging sideways.
      • by c0p0n (770852)

        "no fair use" sorry dude but that ain't true. "Europe" is not a single country you know.

        • by sbrown123 (229895)

          "Europe" is not a single country you know.

          With the EU you now have one country with various states. Each state has its own government that is slowly giving its sovereignty over to the collective government. The transition isn't complete yet though. I would give it another decade before people start really noticing what has happened to them.

        • by t2t10 (1909766)

          Europe does not guarantee fair use rights to its citizens. Go look up the details on Wikipedia under... wait for it... "fair use".

          • by c0p0n (770852)

            Again, that's incorrect. To put just one example, Spain grants their citizens a so called "derecho de cita" which for all purposes is equivalent to the fair use construct in the US.

            • by t2t10 (1909766)

              No, "derecho de cita" is not the same as "fair use"; it's a much more limited exception. The only jurisdictions within Europe that have anything like "fair use" are the common law jurisdictions.

              Europe as a whole does not have fair use rights. In particular, the biggest and most significant countries (Germany, France) do not, and instead have been at the forefront of creating draconian copyright measures. Germany even forces universities and schools to pay steep fees for the right to copy content for teac

              • by c0p0n (770852)

                Incorrect. "Derecho de cita" grants much the same rights as fair use, no matter what you just read on the Wikipedia - the article in English is just plain wrong and misleading. It gives people the right to re-jiggle any copyrighted work for as long as it's within a series of fair use parameters. The Spanish example is not common law, but explicitly allowed by "el código civil" and actually drips from several articles of their Constitution.

                On the "feeling superior to the US", I'm merely pointing out the

      • by MareLooke (1003332) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @09:46AM (#36610272) Homepage

        No fair use? Citation needed because I seriously believe you pulled that one out of your ass. Afaik copyright law is also still in the hands of individual countries anyway, over here at least schools are free to use published articles in their entirety as they see fit, for example.

        And yeah spreading hate and trying to retroactively alter history (eg. negationism) isn't allowed in most of Europe, which is bad how? Also limits on competition? There's limits to prevent LACK of competition (ask all of your fellow Americans that get the "choice" of having only 1 cable provider how well that works for them)

        No idea why you were modded informative, as a Troll you did a damn good job though

        • by HBI (604924)

          And yeah spreading hate and trying to retroactively alter history (eg. negationism) isn't allowed in most of Europe, which is bad how?

          There is danger in giving any government the power to regulate expression. Governments change, and some will use this power for ill. Giving it to a government to prevent something you consider offensive is a poor reason to take that risk.

          Also limits on competition?

          Competition is the very essence of innovation, where innovation is defined as improving the human condition.

          • And yeah spreading hate and trying to retroactively alter history (eg. negationism) isn't allowed in most of Europe, which is bad how?

            There is danger in giving any government the power to regulate expression. Governments change, and some will use this power for ill. Giving it to a government to prevent something you consider offensive is a poor reason to take that risk.

            You would be wrong, what is disallowed, for example negationism in my country (Belgium), is clearly defined by law. Whether you are guilty of spreading hate, negationism or racism is decided by court, and unlike in the US you are not guilty until proven guilty (and you won't go bancrupt defending yourself either, also unlike in the US) and as the court case aroud Mark Wilders in the Netherlands proves you have to push really hard before you'll get convicted for spreading hate or racism.

            Also limits on competition?

            Competition is the very essence of innovation, where innovation is defined as improving the human condition. Regulating competition limits standard of living on a macro scale. There's a certain Luddite tinge to limiting competition*. "Life is good enough now, we don't need it to get better"

            The "more, better" society has its down side, but without it, nearly all of the progress since the Industrial Revolution wouldn't have happened. We'd have lifespans in the 30s overall and no antibiotics.

            * I see the same Luddite theology amongst the environmental movement as generally defined. I use the word theology purposefully.

            As I stated, there ar

        • by t2t10 (1909766)

          No fair use? Citation needed because I seriously believe you pulled that one out of your ass

          Type "fair use" into Wikipedia (the English version).

          over here at least schools are free to use published articles in their entirety as they see fit, for example

          Perhaps, perhaps not. In many countries, schools pay for that, you just don't know it.

          And yeah spreading hate and trying to retroactively alter history (eg. negationism) isn't allowed in most of Europe, which is bad how?

          Translation: Europeans believe the vers

          • No fair use? Citation needed because I seriously believe you pulled that one out of your ass

            Type "fair use" into Wikipedia (the English version).

            And? We might not have it under that name, but we definately have those rights. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

            over here at least schools are free to use published articles in their entirety as they see fit, for example

            Perhaps, perhaps not. In many countries, schools pay for that, you just don't know it.

            Maybe, but "many countries" still isn't "Europe". Europe is not the US and does not work in the same way, something you seem to either forget or not understand.

            And yeah spreading hate and trying to retroactively alter history (eg. negationism) isn't allowed in most of Europe, which is bad how?

            Translation: Europeans believe the version of history taught by the government because other versions are considered "alterations". It works so well you don't even notice it.

            Yeah, cause my government lies about things that don't benefit them at all. Shall we start another discussion about the necessity of the war in Iraq and why that war was started? I thought not. Small hint: a lot of us still

            • by t2t10 (1909766)

              Small hint: a lot of us still have or had relatives that were actually there during WW2.

              Small hint, so do I, and they aren't even Americans. You should ask your relatives some time where "your country" would be if it weren't for the US.

              Is it so hard to defend your country based on its merits that you have to resort to baseless bashing of another nation of which you don't even understand the basic workings?

              I don't really give a damn about what you think about my country. But I want copyright fixed, and tha

  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:53AM (#36609760) Homepage Journal
    So now, my act of giving gifts to other people in different settings, can be owned by someone OTHER than me ... or, i have to oblige by a certain private party's demands, when i want to do that in a different setting.

    explain me how this shit has not gone over the roof.
    • So now, my act of giving gifts to other people in different settings, can be owned by someone OTHER than me ...

      No. You as the gift giver would not be in violation of this idiotic patent. The supposed infringing party would be the group who built the "social network" on which you did.

      • by unity100 (970058)
        so, if i built a social network to give gifts to my social circle, and they gave gifts to their social circles, then we would be in violation ?

        that basically says, the right to allow people to give gifts to each other in a social network, is owned by facebook. that means, OUR rights and freedom, is owned by facebook, in this aspect of life.

        its my act. its my life. its my freedom. i dont allow anyone to own it.
        • First, don't confuse giving gifts with building a social network which includes gift-giving. The former isn't covered by the patent, only the latter.

          Second, acts are not protected because they are yours, not in the USA at least. You do not have the right to go on a killing spree. You do not have the right to rob a bank. Likewise, you do not have the right to capitalize on someone else's patented invention or copyrighted work, no matter how hard you thump on your chest with a copy of the constitution. A

          • by unity100 (970058)
            so what am i to understand here is that, my liberty to create a social network which includes gift-giving, is OWNED by some other party. is it.
            • Not exactly. Liberty is actually irrelevant here. "Right to capitalize" is the key phrase in my earlier post.

              You have the liberty to create one. But if you try to profit from it in any way, you can be sued by the patent owner.

              • by unity100 (970058)
                then it means, my liberty to profit from what i think is owned by someone else.
                • What's with this liberty trip? You're not a slave. Nobody "owns" your liberty and can tell you what to do or not do here. You're free to create a social network if you want. You're even free to call it "Facebook". You have the "liberty to profit" and make a million dollars off of your copy of Facebook. Go right ahead if you feel the need to exercise your liberty. You can do whatever you want- the government can't arrest you and send you to jail for infringing on a patent. The government can't even b

                  • by unity100 (970058)

                    What's with this liberty trip? You're not a slave. Nobody "owns" your liberty and can tell you what to do or not do here.

                    as long as i am not able to do something i contrive with my thoughts, because someone supposedly OWNS it, i am not free.

                    yesterday, we were free to sing happy birthday to our kids at their birthdays. today, we can be sued for that. as you can see, once you get your ass out of your pants like that, there will be no end to those wanting to screw you over by constantly 'redefining' what can be owned.

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:55AM (#36609790)

    Subscribers are leaving in droves. A year or two and it will totally implode.

    • by bmo (77928)

      >Subscribers are leaving in droves.

      Assuming what you say is true, that means they're going to something else.

      Where are they going to?

      I've been waiting for Diaspora myself, but that seems to be moribund.

      --
      BMO

    • Subscribers are leaving in droves.

      Citation please. And anecdotal evidence is not proof, before you reply.

  • That's an absurdly bad patent, and I'm pretty sure that even I have seen assorted prior art. On the plus side, it might help to stem the tide of people tacking 'social' onto every bloody warmed-over .bomb concept in an attempt to sell it to VCs...
    • Blame the game, not the player. Companies have no choice but to play.

    • Bad *and* Absurd! Facebook's antics is becoming really annoying!

      I wonder if we can perform a psychological study, prove that Facebooking is addictive to the point of detriment and wellbeing, and class it as dangerous as scheduled medication.

      We can make a pretty penny hosting rehab centers. I'll start the Facebook group for our rehab project...

  • by mswhippingboy (754599) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @08:57AM (#36609800)
    I'm thinking we'll all be SOL if someone decides to apply for a patent on "breathing". Apparently the "non-obvious subject matter" test (USPTO 35 U.S.C. 103 http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/appxl_35_U_S_C_103.htm [uspto.gov]) does not apply anymore, or maybe the "greasing of the skids" is just more blatant now.
    • Okay, then. Your homework, if you think you can do it better than the USPTO, is to write a proper rejection of any one claim in that patent under 35 USC 102 or 103.

      • by russotto (537200)

        Okay, then. Your homework, if you think you can do it better than the USPTO, is to write a proper rejection of any one claim in that patent under 35 USC 102 or 103.

        Oh, I know the answer to this one. You basically can't reject on prior art, because any tiny difference between the prior art and the patent means the prior art doesn't apply (though such differences are waved away during infringement prosecutions). So then you go to obviousness. Well, it's easy to show all the components A,B, C, and D existed

        • by grahamm (8844)

          But in many cases it is obvious that if you want to do 'X' then you have to do A & B & C & D. In the past doing X may have been undesirable or impractical for reason 'Y' (which has nothing to with A through D). When this restriction/impediment is removed, just because nobody has done X before does not make the way of doing so any less obvious.

        • Actually, a public use (in the US) is applicable as prior art under 102(b) if it was more than one year prior, and under 102(a) if it was less than a year prior. The problem for examiners is that it can be difficult to find evidence that a public use actually contains the needed elements to formulate a rejection. Even with the availability of open source software, the amount of time that would need to be spent sifting through a large codebase far exceeds the time available to work on a case, and if it tur

      • by Rennt (582550)

        So we are just going to have to accept that patents have become an impediment to the innovation and commerce they were designed to protect?

        Or maybe reform is in order... Or maybe we recognize the system has long since stopped serving it's purpose, so we just throw the whole system out altogether.

        • Too much money running around in patents to move forward with reform. Not enough money to develop a time machine and b*tch slap the *sswipes that put this crap in the Constitution. You sir are looking at what we call an intractable situation. We're stuck with them until there no longer exists an authority to enforce them.
  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @09:01AM (#36609856)
    We used to give gifts of food and clothes to the poor children in far away lands at harvest time. All the gifts would be on show a the front of the Hall. Sorry children, our church cannot give you anything this year. Kindness is patented.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      We used to give gifts of food and clothes to the poor children in far away lands at harvest time. All the gifts would be on show a the front of the Hall. Sorry children, our church cannot give you anything this year. Kindness is patented.

      No no no .... like all software patents, this is a "method for doing something we've all been doing for a very long time, but with a computer."

      So your real-world situation isn't covered by this patent, merely doing the exact same thing involving a computer. Not having read

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @09:02AM (#36609872)
    So if "The Social Network" is playing on TV on Christmas, suddenly millions of people will be guilty of patent infringement... because of giving gifts in a social network environment.
  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @09:06AM (#36609896)
    Playing social games, 1989
    • gift troll bread
    • You gifted a bread to a large troll.
    • The troll smiles and lets you pass the bridge

    New ending! 2011

    • Mark Zuckerberg booms: Though shall not gift!
    • The troll, angry at your attempted patent theft, slays you
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      You misspelled "give" and "gave." Back in 1989, "gift" was still properly recognized as a noun.

              -dZ.

  • There is certainly prior art. I know that this sort of thing was done in Second Life from its inception. I am sure that similar gift giving was done in other online social networks since the very first online social network was developed.
    • by makomk (752139)

      Livejournal's been doing something similar since before Facebook even existed. Probably not quite similar enough to actually invalidate any of the patent claims, but it's certainly relevant prior art that ought to narrow how they can be interpreted considerably.

  • with some meaningless currency.

    In exchange for giving a gift, users get a "gift token" that they can use to buy virtual goods.
    As absurd as this patent is, it's also easily worked around.

  • I'm sorry but Catholicism already has a long standing patent on giving to charity and flaunting it in a social environment.

  • I just gave something to a co-worker this morning. Nobody tell Facebook that I did that or I might get sued for patent infringement.

    • by vlm (69642)

      I just gave something to a co-worker this morning. Nobody tell Facebook that I did that or I might get sued for patent infringement.

      Speaking of that, is this a back door for suing people who give others the common cold or a STD? Not just civil proceedings, but criminal patent violation?

  • by Ken Hall (40554) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @09:43AM (#36610260)

    .. one guy at the patent office to look at each patent for about five seconds, and stamp ones like this with "This is stupid, go away... NO PATENT FOR YOU!!"

    • by makubesu (1910402)
      They would, but I patented rejecting patent applications.
  • ...a clever legal and technical maneuver makes it far
    more difficult....

    Well, when you put it like that, it makes it sound like they'll have to... innovate.

    • Clicking the link in that article yields:

      Warning: mysqli_connect() [function.mysqli-connect]: (42000/1044): Access denied for user 'funhi_web1'@'localhost' to database 'funhi_db1' in /home/funhi/public_html/include/constants.php on line 27

      Warning: mysqli_error() expects exactly 1 parameter, 0 given in /home/funhi/public_html/include/constants.php on line 27
      Problem connecting:

      :P

  • Sorry Facebook.
  • I seem to recall my wife mentioning to me several years ago that Cyworld, a Korean web portal/social engineering site, offered some level of gift-giving (don't know specifics). Facebook is just using its imaginary money to put up sandbags against potential competitors.
  • How does this patent provide an advance in the technical arts? That is always a missing item in these patents and it should be the most important, but it seems never to be considered.
  • Also applies to commecialism: http://www.pdfernhout.net/recognizing-irony-is-a-key-to-transcending-militarism.html [pdfernhout.net]
    "There is a fundamental mismatch between 21st century reality and 20th century security [and economic] thinking. Those "security" [and "commercial productive"] agencies are using those tools of abundance, cooperation, and sharing mainly from a mindset of scarcity, competition, and secrecy. Given the power of 21st century technology as an amplifier (including as weapons of mass destruction), a sc

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