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Facebook Patents Location Social Networking 120

bizwriter writes "Facebook just received a patent with broad claims that would seem to cover much of what Google (GOOG) Latitude, Foursquare, Gowalla, and others try to do in letting users share their locations with others. Patent number 7,809,805, called 'Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members,' covers people manually entering a status, sending that and their location from a wireless device, and sharing both the status and location with others. Facebook's corporate value just took a big jump — and a number of other companies might have to either challenge the patent's validity or consider licensing deals."
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Facebook Patents Location Social Networking

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  • Suing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:12PM (#33810152) Journal

    With all the mobile companies already suing each other, this should just add more..


    • by srussia ( 884021 )

      With all the mobile companies already suing each other, this should just add more..




    • They will not necessarily attempt to enforce it. It's been a widespread practice for many years to accumulate a portfolio of weak patents and hold them in reserve for defensive use.

  • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

    I'm the first to admit that I use the hell out of Facebook. Keeping in contact with old classmates, helping organize LAN parties with friends, posting about new articles on my site, doing the general "ZOMG it smells like snow outside!!!" type of things...but I never really saw the appeal of Places.

    If really wanted people to know where I was, wouldn't I just post about it? Or is this something that some people just get, and others don't...? Also, how could Facebook patent it? They were hardly the first t

    • "Keeping in contact with old classmates,..."

      I never got that part. Why would anybody want to stay in touch with people you have nothing in common, just because a computer assigned the same classroom to them for some time, umpteen years ago.

      • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

        In my case, there were people that I was good friends with, but they moved away (either to live elsewhere, or to go off to college.) Out of the 186 people I'm friends with on Facebook, about 70 of them are people that I used to be friends with in K-12.

        • You had friends in K-12? You're much different than most of us here.
          • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

            I got lucky...all of the schools I went to had a HUGE geek/nerd population. There were almost as many geeks/nerds n my high school as the Abercrombie-wearing "popular" kids.

      • This is one of those rare "cool" features of Facebook. Aside from the typical long-lost friend you reconnect with, there are dozens of people I was friends with in secondary school but were not close enough to overcome large distances. These are the people you liked, but if you went out to have a beer at a bar with them today, you probably wouldn't get tot he bottom of the first glass before you ran out of stuff to talk about. With FB, you can catch up, see their kids, and find out what's up with them in ma

      • "Keeping in contact with old classmates,..."

        I never got that part. Why would anybody want to stay in touch with people you have nothing in common, just because a computer assigned the same classroom to them for some time, umpteen years ago.

        I understand part of that but I also made friends in class as well, and I wasn't the only one.

    • by ZDRuX ( 1010435 )
      It's unfortunate that you think your friends are the only ones who would find this information most valuable. The other Facebook "friends" such your local Police would be most interested in this as well, should a car be stolen in the area where you posted from at that exact time for example - even if you had nothing to do with it.
  • by Even on Slashdot FOE ( 1870208 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:17PM (#33810294)

    Companies patent widely implemented ideas and sue everyone. Oh wait, that's not new.

    • damn the guy who didn't patent the toilet flushing mechanism seriously lost out .

      • damn the guy who didn't patent the toilet flushing mechanism seriously lost out .

        Shit out of luck, you might say. :-P

        But, really, humanity is better off without that being patented. ;-)

  • by ZombieBraintrust ( 1685608 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:18PM (#33810318)
    Well the current purpose of the patent system is to provide work and revenue for lawyers. Its a way for them to attach themselves like parasites to the software buisness.
  • There's pretty much no chance this will stand up in a lawsuit. Plenty of other companies beat them to market with a product like this. Foursquare for instance.

    • If you RTFA, the patent was filed in February, 2007. Foursquare wasn't launched until March 2009 according to wiki. So at least in the case of Foursquare, I don't see how they can claim prior art. I'm pretty sure Google Latitude was launched in 2009 as well. I can't speak to other systems though.
      • by rwven ( 663186 )

        RTFA fail :-(

      • by Vorpix ( 60341 )

        Google bought Dodgeball (which did this sort of location tracking via sms) in 2005. Dodgeball's founder (Dennis Crowley []) then created Foursquare. If anybody should be patenting this it should be Crowley or Google.

    • by Fat Cow ( 13247 )

      When they brought it to market is irrelevant. It looks like they filed this patent in 2007, which predates foursquare.

      However it was filed after dodgeball. From wikipedia, dodgeball required you to text your location rather than auto-detecting it from the gps. The claims in the facebook patent specify auto-detecting your location so it doesn't sound like dodgeball is prior art.

      Was there something prior to 2007 that was already doing this? Maybe brightkite or loopt?

      • by VisiX ( 765225 )
        It doesn't matter, patents have to be nonobvious. This is clearly an obvious extension of an existing technology.
        • by nedwidek ( 98930 )

          Exactly. I read the claims. I'm sorry, but the instant they added a GPS chip to phones and gave us programmatic access, this all became obvious. With even simple GPS access you can get location, direction, and speed. Using this in conjunction with anything you've done before is obvious. Maybe not always useful, but you can do it.

          Then again this is the patent office and I'm sure that they are always surprised when it starts raining. When your definition of obvious is so low, dark clouds cannot be an indicato

      • by jc42 ( 318812 )

        Was there something prior to 2007 that was already doing this?

        I'd think that lots of the GPS gadgets back in the 1990s would qualify as prior art. Pretty much all of them communicated their position to another computer via some sort of "network" link, RS-232 or bluetooth or USB or whatever. There was software on the other computer that accepted the GPS info and did something mappy with it.

        How could what facebook's doing not be a trivial variant of what GPS gadgets have done from the beginning? The only d

  • A Better Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:23PM (#33810476)
    Perhaps instead of suing each other and licencing everything they could all get together and help get rid of software patents. Just imagine the money they could save on lawyers, in both applying for the patents, and defending against them.
  • Before everyone goes off a wall here, it should be noted Facebook applied for this February 2007.

    Foursquare didn't even exist until 2009.

    Dodgeball (which Google bought and created Latitude from) was started in 2005, but at the time it was based on TXT messages, not GPS, so not sure it applies.

    • by brunes69 ( 86786 )

      As a follow up - if anything I am just pointing out the patent is 100% valid, which just goes to show how pointless software method patents are. Between the time of filing and the time of approval an entire industry had already been created with many competitors, before Facebook even got around to implementing the thing the applied for a patent on.

      The patent system moves too slowly to be useful for software patents. It's only possible purpose is litigation, it does not provide any incentive to innovate.

      • by VisiX ( 765225 )
        You can't patent something that is obvious. Tacking GPS onto Dodgeball would occur to anyone who is familiar with both.
  • /. fails again (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How is it that every time a patent article is posted slashdot never posts the claims and always posts something from the abstract or the title which gives the patent holder no rights at all. The first claim is "1. A method of sharing locations of users participating in a social networking service at a geographic location, the method executed by a computer system and comprising: receiving location information and status information from a mobile device of a first user of the social networking service, the l

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Problem is my old website had the capability to do ALL of this before it went under. Our newer reincarnation does not have this built in, but I still have the full database from my old website from 5 years ago. Would this count as prior art against the patent?

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      While that claim is still pretty broad it isn't nearly as broad as the thing posted in the summary.

      It's still blatantly obvious to anyone with an IQ higher than a watermelon.

      • > It's still blatantly obvious to anyone with an IQ higher than a watermelon.

        Which means that the C-level execs will think it very clever.

      • While that claim is still pretty broad it isn't nearly as broad as the thing posted in the summary.

        It's still blatantly obvious to anyone with an IQ higher than a watermelon.

        Prove it. Remember, patents are legal documents that require evidence, an argument, and a conclusion to invalidate. You've got the conclusion part, but you're only 1/3rd of the way there.

    • How is it that every time a patent article is posted slashdot never posts the claims and always posts something from the abstract or the title which gives the patent holder no rights at all.

      Because the editors are waiting for someone like you to make a comment that analyzes one or more of the independent claims. Slashdot editors are good at what they do, and armchair paralegals are good at what they do.

    • While you have a point about the general level of comprehension of patents and patent matters on /. (and you're hardly the first to make it) I'd say this was a very poor choice of article against which to raise that criticism - unless you can explain exactly how that claim "isn't nearly as broad as the thing posted in the summary".

  • Marco! (Score:4, Funny)

    by phrostie ( 121428 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:24PM (#33810490)


    *Cease and disist letter arrives in mail

  • Can I patent wiping my ass so I can sue everyone too?
  • This idea is completely obvious when taking into account users having internet enabled mobile devices with GPS.
    Shame on the USPTO to bundle up a couple existing technologies in an obvious manner that effectively shuts down inovation.

  • that their years of hard work and billions of research dollars spent on the concept of telling friends where you are in addition to what you are doing has been rewarded. Can you imagine what kind of world it would be to live in where they were not given a patent for such a far-reaching, insightful, life-changing idea? It is brilliant innovations like this getting well-deserved patents that reaffirm my faith in our system of intellectual property protection. Don't listen to the nay-sayers who will undoubtedl

  • This patent was filed February 28, 2007. The only thing this patent seems to add on to what Dodgeball [] did in ~2000 is that location is that instead of entering a location manually and sending via SMS, the patent has the device uploading GPS location data, and having a single program within which to enter location and status data. Considering GPS wasn't commonly available in 2000, and neither were smartphones that could run programs and had data plans, I don't see how this isn't considered an obvious impro
  • Prior art (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ntheory ( 1381059 )
    Patent filed Feb 28th, 2007 by Facebook Announced November 8th, 2006 by Helio [] GFY Facebook
  • There's a social app for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Blackberry called Grindr [].

    It uses GPS or WiFI location data to show potential (male/male) dates nearby.

  • Back when I was still a student, I used to update my status and location on my web page on the campus network. And I am aware that people used to do this with their "finger" profiles back before there was the web. Some people with "text pagers" even managed to these updates using their pagers. (Also, other things were wired to publish their status on web pages (or finger profiles), for example vending machines and hot tubs.)

  • maybe repeating this like a machine will get it to you : patents can NOT work. dont try to make a faulty mechanism work through excessive effort.
    • Never would have realized - thanks! We'll get right on that!

      The Rest of the World

    • Patents are abused -> abolish patents, copyright is abused -> abolish copyright, fine, we could then abolish arms, religion, philosophy, law, property, culture, language, ideas.

      Fight abusers instead of giving in for everything they taint, no, uh?

      • arms, culture, language are not rules that govern a society. religion is already abolished. philosophy is what gives us the understanding of what needs to be abolished. property will eventually be abolished in higher stages of societal evolution. i cant even begin to tell that the word 'ideas' dont fit in that sentence.

        food for thought : 'if it wasnt abused, aristocracy would work perfect as a social system'. with your logic, even this is possible. so why not reinstate aristocracy ...
        • > arms, culture, language are not rules that govern a society.

          a thing I never implied. The theme was "things being abused".

          And I guess that aristocracy wasn't fought because aristocrats abused their powers but instead cause new classes had acquired power but lacked proportional political representation. Else, as guys like Gaetano Mosca thought, an organized minority always prevails against a majority (that naturally defaults to a chaotic mass).

          As for religion and philosophy, if the latter can't say much

          • aristocrats didnt abouse their powers .....

            our discussion ends here. have a nice day. you have a lot of history reading to do.
            • Proof: if revolutions started because of aristocracy abuse there would have been one after roughly one generation of aristocrat rulers everywhere. That did not happen.

              Maybe you have problem parsing my grammar.

              • []


                dont go uttering the word 'proof' when you dont even know shit about elementary history. you are talking like an arrogant idiot, asking for proof of the moon existing. it is at that level.

                no, it is at that level, and i am not going to spare any effort for teaching you. you need to school yourself. its your responsibility. this is my last reply. dont get offended if you dont get another.
                • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

                  by marcello_dl ( 667940 )

                  Oh the french revolution. A perfect example of a new class that fight for supremacy over aristocracy. That was my point though, not yours. Since you bring up wikipedia, whose symbols are up there in the picture, between the angels with somewhat dark wings?

                  PS. Since you promised to STFU, anticipating your reactions as you read this, I further clarify that I believe that what's in the declaration of rights is of utmost moral and historical

                  • i have given you 2 links. one of them, in case you havent noticed, is age of enlightenment. french revolution is a result of that. american revolution too. anything you see as 'modern' values, are too.

                    reading that article and following links you find there, will supply the historical information regarding aristocracy, that you so sorely lack. then you will keep refraining from saying moronic things like 'aristocracy didnt abuse power', or think that the principles of age of enlightenment, and reasons for
                    • You might read this thread again, instead.
                      When one says something didn't happen because aristocracy abused their power, he does not imply that they abused or didn't abuse their power. If you bothered to read it well you would even see where I necessarily imply that aristocracy abuses their power eventually.
                      I also have issues with the "modernity" of values that have names of greek origin.

                    • "good day, sir .. i said good day."
  • Prior Art? APRS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:43PM (#33810952)

    As an old amateur radio operator I must ask. How is location based social networking different than APRS [] that's been in use for over a decade?

    Operators with an attached GPS had their location updated automatically, Operators without a GPS entered their location manually, and the location was passed with each message packet. There were web pages that allowed people not currently on-the-air to monitor the communications via http.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      APRS was invernted in 1994, by 2000 had all the features described in the patent. And, unlike a lot of claims of prior art, this one is meticulously documented in the proceedings of the Digital Communications Conference by WB4APR, WU2Z, K4HG, and others. Of course, fighting this will be expensive, but hopefully someone will.

      The only ground to contest this prior art is whether ham radio is a social network. On that score I can only paraphrase the Breakfast Club: "It is social. Sad and pathetic yes, but socia

  • ... that will last until the patent is challenged on the bases that a) it is obvious to someone skilled in the state of the art and b) it was being done long before they thought of it (

  • So, how do I turn it off, again?

  • I must remind Slashdot that I hold the patent for "placing characters in on a blank space in order to form legible text that delivers information remotely to computer users." I await my royalties check.
    • Unfortunately there's one test all patents do have to pass: Not pissing off the legal industry.

      Anything that stops lawyers from doing their thing will never fly.

  • Especially the first few. Not much of a patent.

  • Such kind of patent harms internet and advancement in general. Why not patent things in a way that would lead everyone to go forward? I..e. if someone patent posting duplicate news would be a boom for slashdot and other similar communities
  • Maybe I missed it, but I find it interesting that the patent doesn't explicitly state what a social networking service *is*. Sure, we all "know" what it is -- but in something like a patent shouldn't this be very clearly defined? What if a "social networking service" encompasses presence/IM/chat software? The XMPP protocol (Jabber, now owned by Cisco, is based off this) has drafts (see XEP-0080 []) already written for providing user location in that context. I'm sure this isn't the only draft written of its ki

    • > Do these fit into the realm of "social networking services"?

      The patent attorneys who drafted this certainly hope so.

  • Who the hell is in charge of the software patent division?
  • Because I know that when I was reading this story I was idly wondering what Google's stock ticker symbol was!

  • But it seems to me that it is a lot like patenting using the telephone, after Bell patented the telephone. Wait! I take that back. Please ignore this. I need to go to the patent office real quick!
  • prior art everywhere (Score:2, Informative)

    by sciasbat ( 196122 )

    This is patent is so silly that prior art can be found anywhere. For example XMPP folks have specs initially published in 2003 describing the same exact scenario: (User Location)

    This document defines a format for capturing data about an entity's geographical location (geoloc). The format defined herein can describe most earthbound geographical locations, especially locations that may change fairly frequently. Potential uses for this approach include:

    Publishing locatio

  • Hmm, seems like gps with any webbased interface should be prior art on this.

    If I know you and you want to know where i'm at? Call me on my cell phone, text me, email me and ask.

  • Wouldn't that loosely describe any 911 system receiving location information from your cell phone? That's a hugely obvious chunk of prior art.

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".