Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Is Myspace A Patent Violator?

Friendster was one of the first generation of the social networking sites. They were the first to try many of the ideas from which MySpace and bebo built their empires.
Another thing that they were first to do, it seems, is to run tot he patent office to protect their 'intellecual property'. It seems perverse that the idea of social networking should be granted a patent. Although the technology behind the platform is impressive and deserves protection, the idea of being able to get in touch with your friends seems to be pretty generic.
The problem that America seems to have is their government's willingness to bend towards the wants of business. In this case the patent office has gone too far.
Friendsreunited could be considered one of the first social networking sites. Surely they missed a trick here in patenting their technology? Did BT have something when it tried to patent the hyperlink?
If patents are so important, how did both Microsoft and Apple end up having 'desktops' and 'windows' within their operating systems? Companies and individuals are allowed to challenge the patents, if the owner tries to enforce it.
There should be some kind of method for alternative patent offices to challenge patents approved by foreign companies. Under WTO rules, all members must accept patents awarded by other WTO members. This creates a false market with the most lax patent office winning out.
Currently, the patent office of choice seems to be the US one as it is easier to get a patent and they award patents based on who came up with an idea first rather than when the idea was patented. Something needs to be done!

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