Friendster Expands Social Networking Patent Warchest

Friendster, with 19 million worldwide monthly unique visitors (Comscore, August 2009) is no longer a leading social network in the U.S., but it did forge the trail for the MySpace’s and Facebook’s that came later. And they may be gathering IP assets that could provide offensive or defensive tools down the road – patents.

The company has announced four social networking patents between 2006 and 2009. And they’ll be announcing a fifth shortly – No. 7,478,078, titled “Method for sharing relationship information stored in a social network database with third party databases.” It was first filed on June 14, 2004.

The patent describes the sharing of information between users and applications based on relationships between users, as well as other uses. Most social networks today do exactly this, and may violate the patent:

By having a way of obtaining relationship information from an online social network, operators of online services can manage services based on the relationships between their customers. For example, a site offering a directory of members may allow each member to limit who may access his or her member information, or who may communicate with him or her, based on the closeness of the relationship between the requesting member and him or her. In addition, providers of online services may use methods of the present invention to allow users to control the accessibility of personal information maintained in an online environment. Furthermore, operators of existing database are better able to target particular information (e.g. advertisements) to individuals with an interest in receiving it, based on the premise that people closely related to one another in a social network share common interests, goals, lifestyles, and the like.

This patent joins the previous four Friendster patents. From information supplied by the company:

  • In July 2006, Friendster was awarded its first U.S. patent describing how people are
    connected in the context of an online social network, titled “A System, Method and
    Apparatus for Connecting Users in an Online Computer System Based on Their Relationships within Social Networks” (U.S. Patent No. 7,069,308).
  • Friendster was granted a second U.S. patent in October 2006, which discloses the
    process of enriching other users’ profiles with text, video, pictures and additional content,
    titled “Method of Inducing Content Uploads in a Social Network” (U.S. Patent No.
  • In March 2007, Friendster added another patent to its portfolio, titled “System and
    Method for Managing Connections in an Online Social Network” (U.S. Patent No.
    7,188,153), which describes a technology that manages connections in a social network and allows members of the social network to add friends, personalize their network through arranging, ordering and classifying their connections, and search and browse profiles of other members of the social network.
  • In December 2008, Friendster was granted its fourth patent, titled “Compatibility Scoring of Users in a Social Network” (U.S. Patent No. 7,451,161), which discloses a unique methodology used to calculate compatibility based on expressed interests between users of a social network. This includes scoring the compatibility between two members of a social network based on their interests and scoring the correlation between two interests for a given member of a social network.