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Actually Reading the Facebook Feed Patent (ynniv.com)
8 points by ynniv 2612 days ago | hide | past | web | 15 comments | favorite



If you look at the file history of the patent application (which you can get from http://portal.uspto.gov/external/portal/pair), you will see that the patent was allowed only after adding the "where the link enables a viewing user to participate in the same activity" limitation. It is mentioned in the Interview Summary.


This is an excellent resource that I was unaware of. That limitation was not present in the 8-19-2009 claims, but was in 12-16-2009. I made a cursory glance over the documents available on PAIR, but was unable to find the examiners specific rejection that caused them to add this. There are a lot of references on this application, tho.


Look at the 12/14/2009 interview summary (an interview is where the patent applicants talk to the examiner), and in particular the third page.


I guess I'm failing to see why this doesn't apply to a whole bunch of generic social activity feeds. Github's activity feed, for example, seems to fall under the patent. What am I missing?


Does clicking a github news item cause you to also make a commit?

And realize that if github and other social networks have similar features that were added after 2006, they are infringers, not prior art.


You are referring to this clause, correct?

"attaching a link associated with at least one of the activities of another user to at least one of the plurality of news items where the link enables a viewing user to participate in the same activity as the another user"

The github news feed includes notifications of comments, and there is a link that can be used to go to the comment page and also comment. As I'm reading clause, the link itself doesn't need to actually cause an action, and the link in that github news item "enables a viewing user to participate in the same activity as the another user."

Also, you can edit and make commits from the web interface, so this could fall under this as well.


The github news feed includes notifications of comments, and there is a link that can be used to go to the comment page and also comment

Ah, that would likely infringe. They could easily get around this by removing the direct link to comment and having users view the comment thread before commenting. Or have a text box instead of a link, where the user would enter their comment directly in the news feed.


Did you know having read a patent could increase the damages if you are later found to infringe it?

Most bad patents die in obscurity, never enforced, never discussed -- which is as it should be.

The best thing to do if you hear informally about a dubious patent is to ignore it -- don't promote it, don't mock it, and for god's sake don't study it.

Of course, if your professional patent counsel tells you otherwise, for example after you are specifically alleged to infringe by someone with the power to prosecute, that's different. In the meantime, amateur patent kibbitzing only helps the trolls.


Yes, knowledge of a patent could increase damages if you are found to be infringing. However, ignorance of all patents causes Fear Uncertainty and Doubt at the slightest mention of the an overly broad patent title. Knowledge of the patents in your field is the only way to avoid infringing them. I used to believe that ignorance was the better path, but that only leads to you being sued over something you were unaware of. Now I opt to avoid being sued in the first place.


But reading can cause anxiety and wasted effort engineering around claims that may never be enforced, and may never hold up if enforced. Patent text is in its own arcane language, which takes significant time and effort to understand. (It is easy for skilled engineers to think they understand, but not.)

For developers without professional patent training, unless they've received a credible allegation (or lawsuit) of infringement from a patent-holder, or other business strategy considerations require them to do a patent survey, reading controversial patents is all cost, no benefit. This is especially true when the title or abstract piques interest.


That works if it's actually possible to avoid infringing all overbroad patents. But the USPTO's bar for "novel and non-obvious" is so absurdly low that I don't believe we can assume they left us any gaps in the minefield.


True. Throughout the blog post and comments here, I never mentioned that I am not in favor of software patents, but I absolutely agree. That said, there is usually some way to weasel out of the shadow of a patent, and being sued for a smaller outrageous amount isn't as useful as not being sued at all.


This sounds very much like it can apply to twitter.

@foobar said cool. <reply button> <retweet button>

That's an activity that can be public or only be viewed by your friends. People can participate by doing the same activity (retweeting or replying).

This also applies to google buzz, myspace, hi5, github comments, linkedin and tons of other services. It looks like the OP should re-read the patent.


It looks like the OP should re-read the patent.

Thank you freetard, that was insightful.

That's an activity that can be public or only be viewed by your friends. People can participate by doing the same activity (retweeting or replying).

In this patent, "News Items" are different from status updates, which would be considered "actions". The related art section of the patent discloses that users of social networks can already see direct actions of other users, and the utility of this patent is to filter this list to dampen the noise. A more apt example would be twitter providing a list of people who have been recently followed by people that you are following, with the option of clicking the news item to also follow this new person.


> A more apt example would be twitter providing a list of people who have been recently followed by people that you are following, with the option of clicking the news item to also follow this new person.

How would that be more apt? In twitter you can make your account private, so only a few selected people can see your actions.

Also a retweet, a reply or even a tweet are all actions (the action to retweet, reply and tweet ie say something).




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