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Friendster Awarded Social Networking Patent

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-07-07

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Being a pioneer of social networking has its drawbacks and benefits. Though Friendster's thunder was stolen by the likes of MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo, a social networking patent may give the company a back door to lost revenue recovery.

It could be too late for Friendster to catch up with the runaway successes of the new kids on the social networking block. Weak on capital, and with a stagnant membership based mostly in Asia, the San Francisco-based company can flex some licensing fee litigation muscle.

The patent, entitled "A System, Method and Apparatus for Connecting Users in an Online Computer System Based on Their Relationships within Social Networks" (Number 7,069,308), was awarded to Friendster on June 27, listing founder Jonathan Abrams as inventor, who has left the company.

It details a process whereby:

"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."

Friendster says this is only the beginning.

"This patent is the first of many expected to be awarded to Friendster over the next several years and underscores the company's ongoing commitment to innovation in social networking," said Kent Lindstrom, president of Friendster.

Lindstrom was vague about what the company plans to do now that it has been awarded the patent and to what extent Friendster can apply pressure on its competitors to pay up.

From Red Herring:

"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.


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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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