Boston Patent Research
53 Josephine Ave #2
Somerville, MA 02144
617-501-1893

FirstSearch Technology Report:
Social Networ...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

Contents
Disclaimer ..............................................
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

Disclaimer
This report is provided by Boston Patent Research
Bo...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Executive Summary


Most of the smaller companies involved in s...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Executive Summary Continued:


We did not find a cohesive intel...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Preface
This report attempts to survey issued US patents and ass...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
5. Read the claims of those patents whose abstracts appear relev...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
After we developed the set of patents, we extracted all of the i...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Introduction to Social Networking
Social networking technologies...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Social Networks
In the simplest sense, social networks are compo...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

A larger view of a social network may look like this (taken fro...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
A social network platform must provide in one form or another:
1...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
While the feature list is short, the list of features that stron...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
For the purposes of this report, we will focus on the three core...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
criteria. Normally, users sift through one or more uncontrolled ...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
concerned with the creation of fake profiles on the platform. Th...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Market Forces
From a business development standpoint, convergent...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
rewards the user with better associations (connecting with the r...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

Why Consider Intellectual Property?
A collection of companies w...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Survey Of Social Network Provider Portfolios
The following list ...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
eConozco.com
eFriendsnet30
Eliyon31

enCentra32
EntreMate33
Eure...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Growth Company49
Gruuve50
HeiYou51
HelloWorld52
hi553
hipstir54
...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

Lycos Social Networking

Match.com69

survey of patents assigne...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Netmodular Community80

Netparty81
Netplaya Burning Man
Communit...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
PowerMingle93
Qpengyou94
RateOrDate95

RealContacts Ltd96

RedDa...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

SocialText108

SocialTree109
Sona110
Spoke111

Squiby112
Stumbl...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

The Conneck
The Lunch Club NYC117
The Opinion Exchange118
Tickl...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
and US6105008 Internet loading system using smart card, neither ...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

RepTools140

Cakehouse
Antology141
Vizster142
NetVis143

Produc...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Search Results: Overall Statistics
The search strategy used in t...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

US6516349 System for updating a set of
instantiated content pro...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

In the course of the keyword searches, we generated several set...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

Patent holders with more than 10 patents include IBM (333 paten...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

However, when we look at the applications associated with inven...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
The following is a more complete, alphabetical list of the compa...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Filing Year
Filing Year
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
A Look at Forward Citations by Category. Reading the top line of...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS

The Keyword Searches
We begin by examining relevant issued pate...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
USER PROFILES

Many of the relevant user profile patents concern...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
AT&T
US6546005

Active user registry

User Profiles—A registry
a...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
eBay
While eBay does not seem to have any patents relevant to us...
FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS
Hewlett Packard
In addition to the patent below, Hewlett Packard...
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Intellectual Property in the Social Networking Space, 2004

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This report provides an early (2004) survey of patents covering the social networking space. Here, intellectual property is use to give insight into problems in social networking considered valuable enough to solve and then protect.

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Intellectual Property in the Social Networking Space, 2004

  1. 1. Boston Patent Research 53 Josephine Ave #2 Somerville, MA 02144 617-501-1893 FirstSearch Technology Report: Social Networking Platforms & Technologies Copyright © 2004 by Boston Patent Research. All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. ISBN 0-9758991-0-4
  2. 2. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Contents Disclaimer ............................................................... 3 Executive Summary ................................................ 4 Preface..................................................................... 6 Social Networks .................................................... 10 Market Forces ....................................................... 17 Why Consider Intellectual Property? .................... 19 Survey Of Social Network Provider Portfolios .... 20 Social Network Analysis Tools ............................ 28 Search Results: Overall Statistics ......................... 30 ANALYTIC TOOLS AND CONVERGENT TECHNOLOGIES ..........................................................31 The Keyword Searches ......................................... 38 USER PROFILES ...........................................................39 AFFILIATION................................................................57 SECURITY .....................................................................70 Supplemental Search Results ................................ 78 BULLETIN BOARD/ CHAT ROOM .............................78 MONITORING ...............................................................80 NAVIGATION ...............................................................82 NETWORKS ..................................................................84 PEER-TO-PEER NETWORKS ......................................88 SEARCHING..................................................................90 SERVICES .....................................................................95 VISUALIZATION ..........................................................98 US6175831 ......................................................... 104 US6175831: TWO CITATION TREES ........................114 Litigation ............................................................. 117 A Look at Selected Development Teams............ 129 MICROSOFT SOCIAL COMPUTING ........................129 IBM SOCIAL COMPUTING .......................................133 AOL/ LYCOS/ YAHOO!..............................................136 Conclusion .......................................................... 141 Next Steps ........................................................... 142 About Boston Patent Research............................ 143 About the Author ................................................ 144 8 June 2004 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 2
  3. 3. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Disclaimer This report is provided by Boston Patent Research Boston Patent Research [BPRS] is not a law firm and none of the assertions in this report should be construed as legal opinions. In particular, any comments regarding patent claims should not be construed, individually or in sum, as an argument for any particular interpretation of a given claim. Further, no material in this report should be construed to supply or even support a validity, enforceability or infringement opinion. Boston Patent Research strongly encourages the reader to seek qualified legal counsel before making any decisions based in whole or in part on the contents of this or any other report. Boston Patent Research is not an investment firm and none of the assertions in this report should be construed as investment opinions and/or recommendations. This report has been written in its entirety by a BPRS analyst and reflects a level of diligence normally associated with BPRS analyst work1. The assertions in this report should not be given the weight of expert testimony. The material used to assemble this report can be found entirely in the public domain. 1 BPRS consulting, in contrast, often uses industry experts. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 3
  4. 4. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Executive Summary  Most of the smaller companies involved in social networking services have little patent protection  While patents addressing multiple aspects of social networking do exist, they tend to be held in the portfolios of major corporations, notably Microsoft and IBM.  A review of social networking patents held by IBM and Microsoft suggests that IBM leans toward business-focused data mining services such as corporate knowledge mapping while Microsoft focuses on consumer-oriented applications.  A review of the social networking patents held by Microsoft and IBM suggests that both companies will see profit less in basic social network platforms and more in applications and services attached to those platforms. Services can include back end data mining and front end services including searching, privacy, peer-to-peer support, user profile management, visualization and scheduling/ communications.  A review of the social networking patents held by Microsoft and IBM suggests that Microsoft will benefit by providing software and services on top of the user databases associated with present social networking companies while IBM is in a position to develop its own full-fledged corporate social networking platform.  While social networking is commonly thought of as an outgrowth of bulletin boards and chat rooms, we see at least two points of origin for social networks: bulletin boards/chat rooms and employee data management/ collaborative environments. Additional services, such as location-based social networks, may emerge from the wireless/ cellular sector.  If AOL and Yahoo! can grow their own social networks fast enough, they may be able to compete with Microsoft. The challenge, however, will lie in providing add-on services to end-users, developing a path to profits by offering add-ons in exchange for tiered subscriptions. Microsoft and IBM hold larger intellectual property portfolios addressing such add-ons. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 4
  5. 5. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Executive Summary Continued:  We did not find a cohesive intellectual property picture of a peer-to-peer social network system. Sun Microsystems seems to be making strides forward in the peer-to-peer setting. If social networks move toward peer-to-peer platforms, then IBM and Sun may end up in closer competition.  Presently, social network technology seems to be growing in piecemeal fashion. Some developments (such as improved search routines and better affiliation routines) may be best suited to ―basic‖ services that attract users while other developments (such as improved user profiles, improved trust assessments, and multi-platform communications support) are likely to be associated with upper tier services that yield profits. Companies will require both of these to grow.  Social network technologies seem to be fostered by a select subset of inventors who seem to drive invention across multiple small teams with differing foci. These teams/ inventors often contribute technical know-how back to several divisions within the company. This suggests that small sets of prolific inventors play a disproportionately large role as companies venture into convergent technologies. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 5
  6. 6. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Preface This report attempts to survey issued US patents and associated US patent applications in the field of Social Networking Platforms [SNP] and Social Networking Technologies [SNT]. The introduction that follows, the overview of social networking platforms, and the discussion of market forces are presented to frame the patent research that forms the core of this report. We will try to identify, for example, patents that address effective user profiles and affiliation routines—two factors highlighted in the overview for their role in differentiating successful social networking platforms. This report attempts to extract a set of social networking patents from a potential pool of over 250,000 US patents published since 1985. We found it unreasonable for the purposes of brevity to read each of the 250,000 patents, leading us to develop some shortcuts to highly relevant patents. When we conducted the research behind this report we prefaced cycles of patent reading with search cycles oriented toward identifying highly relevant patents. These searches took several forms, including: 1. Searches for patents held by Social Networking Companies 2. Boolean keyword searches for text within patent claims 3. Searches for patents that cite/ are cited by important patents (backward and forward citations) in the first two categories 4. Searches for litigated patents 5. Searches for patents that have appeared in news articles and other press We note that the decision to mine the patent database for relevant intellectual property may have led us to miss some of the relevant patents. At no point do we represent our work here as exhaustive. While we often consider citations when discerning important patents, this particular report does not attempt to place a value on a patent as a function of the number of forward citations that a patent enjoys. Of 210+ patents covered in this report, 67% have fewer than 10 forward references. When we look at 16 highly relevant patents we find that 10 out of the 16 have under 10 forward references as well. This leads us to believe that, while it is possible to arrive at important patents by following citations chains, sheer citation weight is not enough to determine importance in the Social Networking Space. Instead of running citation analytics we: 1. Began by examining patents held in 127 Social Networking Companies 2. Constructed general keyword searches for user ―profile‖ and ―affiliation‖ within patent claims 3. Sorted the resulting patent sets by assignee while accounting for different assignee names 4. Read the abstracts of each patent held by the top 12-15 assignees Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 6
  7. 7. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS 5. Read the claims of those patents whose abstracts appear relevant to social networking 6. Rated the patents whose claims appeared relevant to social networking 7. Examined patents cited by the top rated social networking patents In this way, we started with US patent database queries which generated initial sets of 1500-3000 patents. Roughly 800-1200 of the patents in each set are held by the top 12-15 assignees. In addition to examining relevant patents held by top assignees, we took a look at the top 100 patents returned in each search where ‗top 100‘ is measured by keyword score. These scores are generated through the Delphion patent research service2. Given the general nature of a user profile and the equally general nature of user security and user affiliation we find that the keyword searches can be inaccurate, yielding only 18% to 20% accuracy (18 to 20 relevant patents in the top 100 relevant patents). This implies an added search burden that will be covered under subsequent searches for chat rooms, bulletin boards, search algorithms & etc. Low keyword relevancy should also make us circumspect when considering aggregate patent statistics. While the aggregate results for these searches are presented separately under the section headings ‗User Profile‘, and ‗Affiliation‘ we found that many of the patents appearing in each search overlap. With this in mind, we sorted the patents as we read them, sending some ‗affiliation‘ patents to ‗user profile‘ and security and vice versa. The patents listed in each section, then, do not necessarily correspond to the search string that was used to start each section. In the end, we break the patents resulting from the keyword and citations searches into the following categories: User Profiles Affiliation Security Bulletin Boards/ Chat Rooms Monitoring Navigation Networks Searching Services Visualization 49 Patents 36 Patents 22 Patents 7 Patents 5 Patents 7 Patents 22 Patents 28 Patents 13 Patents 21 Patents Please note that the patent results above were returned as a result of searches in the area of social networking. There are certainly more than 7 bulletin board/ chat room patents and there are thousands of network and security patents. While we may choose to provide FirstSearch reports in the areas of bulletin boards, chat rooms, and searching at a later point, this report remains focused on social networking platforms. 2 www.delphion.com Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 7
  8. 8. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS After we developed the set of patents, we extracted all of the inventors associated with those patents. The inventor list was submitted against a database of US patent applications in order to develop a list of associated applications. Please be warned that patent application analysis is often far more inaccurate than patent analysis. Most applications, for example, do not enjoy formal company assignment. Assignment is instead deduced from the inventor identity3—an assumption that will not hold if the inventor changes companies. At the same time, the applications provide valuable indicators of relevant R&D spending and can occasionally indicate company direction before products reach the marketplace. After considering the patents and associated applications, we examined one particular patent, US6175831: Method and apparatus for constructing a networking database and system, which received a great deal of attention after Marc Pincus of Tribe.net and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn—a business services SNP— purchased it for roughly $700,000 in November of 2003. As we examined this patent and the surrounding citation chains, we identified 45 related patents that may contribute to a social networking portfolio. The results of this particular search are drawn out in citation graphs reminiscent of the very social networks studied in this report. After examining US6175831, we conducted a quick survey of patents in litigation. The patents, sorted into US patent classes 395, 705, 707 and 709 have enjoyed, at the very least, a filed infringement complaint. We do not comment on the cases but note that companies tend to litigate patents that they believe to be robust from the standpoint of validity and enforceability. The fact that a company is willing to litigate can be informative as well. We follow the survey of patents in litigation with a focused look at the patent and applications associated with the IBM Social Computing Group, the Microsoft Social Computing Group, AOL, Lycos and Yahoo! In this section, we try to identify core research teams at each of these companies. When such a team does not seem to exist, we note researchers who seem to promote invention across other teams and departments. The company survey, patent survey, and application survey combine with the look at US6175831, the litigation landscape and the team overviews to give us a glimpse of the Social Networking Technology landscape from the vantage point of intellectual property. This, in turn, will allow us to draw the general conclusions listed above in the executive summary. 3 We look for matches between inventors and co-inventors, inventor city matches, assigned PCT filings in the patent family and, on occasion, matching attorneys & firms. We also pay attention to the subject of the application. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 8
  9. 9. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Introduction to Social Networking Social networking technologies (SNTs) are convergent—a pastiche of older, more established technologies from different hardware, software, and network sectors that have been melded together to address established needs in a new way. Examples of such combinations could include patents that cover both searching techniques and user profiles and patents that address both collaborative environments and the rich site summary (RSS) feeds used for continuous website updates. In some cases we will be able to identify patents that cover several technologies at once. In other cases we will resort to identifying promising patents in single component areas. At first glance, this report may not seem relevant to current developments in social networks. Intellectual property, after all, has yet to play a starring role in the social network marketplace. We feel, however, that patents will play a larger role as profits begin to appear and as established companies such as Yahoo!, Inc. and Microsoft begin to providing their own social networking solutions. As we noted in the preface, two social network providers, Tribe.net and LinkedIn, have already purchased US patent 6175831: Method and apparatus for constructing a networking database and system for roughly $700,000. As the number of Social Network Platform (SNP) providers grows, patents may play three important roles, first as an store of value prior to merger or acquisition, second as a support for multi-peripheral (PDA, wireless phone, video and audio supported & etc.) social network standards and last as a bar to market participation. We feel that patents will play a role in the M&A cycle first, followed by a standards role and then as a bar to market entry. There may be a few notable infringement suits along the way but few current participants have a resource base that would attract million dollar lawsuits. This cycle will take place over the next ten years. This report begins with a brief overview of social network platforms, identifying basic social networks components (user profiles, databases, affiliation routines, user security) and differentiating them from add-ons (wireless support, scheduling applications, visualization tools). We then attempt to identify trends and conflicts in the marketplace such as the tension between server-based social networks and peer-to-peer networks that rely on desktop applications. After identifying the components and conflicts we dive into the US patent and patent application databases, first with a brief survey of 129 social network technology providers and then with a keyword search in each of user profiles, affiliation routines and user security. The report pauses to take a second look at some of the important patents that emerge and then goes on to look at litigation. At the end of the report, we summarize our findings and provide some predictions regarding new developments in the sector. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 9
  10. 10. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Social Networks In the simplest sense, social networks are composed of chains of people who interact with each other. Each link in such a chain is defined by two people and a particular type of interaction. In the chain below, John is knows Sally who is friends with Bob who works with Jeff. John, Sally, Bob, and Jeff constitute the set of people while ―knows,‖ ―friends,‖ and ―works‖ constitutes the types of interactions. knows Kevin friends works Sally Bob Jeff Notice that Kevin is not required to know, be friends with or work with Jeff. Jeff, in turn, enjoys two degrees of freedom from Kevin. The social networks that we address in this report tend to consist of multiple chains which overlap at one or several points: friends knows John friends friends Jeff works knows April works Bob Sally friends Ralph works Karen Jess We provide, on the next page, a better view of such a network. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 10
  11. 11. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS A larger view of a social network may look like this (taken from the opensource econstellation site—this picture is based on an Orgnet 3.0 Inflow assessment of a user network on Ryze created by Valdis Krebs, CEO of Orgnet/Inflow4 and posted online by Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText5): 4 5 http://www.orgnet.com http://www.socialtext.com Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 11
  12. 12. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS A social network platform must provide in one form or another: 1. A set of users and; 2. A set of relationships between users Notice that we do not require the set to be in a single location. One can visualize, for example, a collection of distributed user sets on a peer-to-peer network. Each computer would manage access rules according to relationship status. In the chain below, John may trust Sally‘s evaluation of Bob enough to allow Bob to retrieve John‘s access code from Sally‘s desktop. Bob can then access John‘s desktop, retrieve Jeff‘s access code and move, in similar fashion, through the network. friends Jeff friends John friends Sally Bob Often these sets of users and relational tables are held on servers owned by social network providers. In this case, the social network provider controls access and sets limits on the use of John‘s information. Since John will be forced to upload this information to the server cluster, it is unlikely that he will provide all of the information that he could retrieve from his desktop. The instance above provides an example of the balance between information quality, control and security required by social network providers. A peer-to-peer network can handle reams of information and provides the user with full control of this information but also requires burdensome security routines that prevent easy navigation around the network. On the other hand, navigation is easier on a server cluster, but the information quality is lower; in part because the end user lacks complete control over his or her information. Solutions involving both desktop software and servers may address this particular balancing act. Social network platforms like Friendster and Ryze are established on servers which store a set of user profiles and a set of associative rules. While the rules exist independently of the users, the values that inform those rules are set by each user. The end user information is supplied over the internet. Changes in user data and permissions impact not one but several (or several hundred) profiles at a time. The following is a short list of features common to almost all social networking platforms. These are: 1. 2. 3. 4. User profiles, Associative rules, Security layers/ procedures Visualization tools Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 5. Database management tools 6. Add-on Applications 7. Billing systems Page 12
  13. 13. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS While the feature list is short, the list of features that strongly differentiate these services is even shorter. The differentiating factors are: 1. The quality of the user profiles 2. The quality of the affiliation routines 3. The level of security In the case of Friendster, users join Friendster by invitation (a security measure), they provide user profiles and photos over and internet connection (user profiles) and they associate with other users by inviting them to become ―friends.‖ Here, the strongest associative rules are very clear—they are developed through an exchange of permissions whose results are laid out in a gallery of photographs. A variety of add-ons are associated with this platform. The Friendster service, for example, features three prominent add-ons: keyword enabled searching of affiliated profiles (to five degrees of freedom), an email service, and a bulletin board. This diagram lists some of the factors that can contribute to the core features: •Digital encryption •ID Verification •Human User Verification •Secure Sockets Layers •Trust Ratings •Password Management •Access Management •Transaction security •Transaction Insurance •Biometric Security •Smart cards •Firewalls •Antivirus software •End User license Agreements •Collective Behavior Assessments User Information Security Affiliation •Bulletin Boards •Testimonial Boards •Photos •Location Information •Log/ Diary Information •Resume Information •Personal Contact Information (v-cards) •Preference Information (internal ratings systems) •Personality Test Statistics (external ratings systems) •Physical Specifications •Event Information •Trust Ratings •Lists of other Contacts (Rolodex) •Matching Engines •Access Management •Search Engines •Relational Weighting Algorithms •Relational Classification engines •User Classification Engines •Group Management DIAGRAM 1-5: SOCIAL NETWORK FEATURES Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 13
  14. 14. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS For the purposes of this report, we will focus on the three core areas in the above diagram. In addition, we will mention new platforms such as cellular social networks (offered by Dodgeball) and peer-to-peer social networks (offered by a Kazaa creation called Skype). At the same time, we recognize that most of the network and security technology behind these platforms is well-established. It does not—from the standpoint of inventiveness—matter which brand of servers are supporting a particular service and, at most, a major intellectual property dispute in the hardware arena will likely lead to a one-time cost as SNP providers switch from one hardware framework to another. Users, on the other hand, will choose to work with the SNP whose user base and affiliation routines allow them to provide the right information to the right people without loss of privacy. The User Profile In general, information in a user profile comes from four sources: the user, monitoring agents, other users, and derivatives from one or more of the preceding sources. Of the four, information provided by the user and information provided by other users are the most common and the most likely to contain false data. As an example, users can, upon setting up a social network account, provide false information about age, name & etc. This can obstruct the goal of predicting the outcome of a future interaction with a given user. Presently, monitoring agents are used less in user profiles because of privacy concerns. Few users, for example, would want to include an uncontrolled list of recently viewed websites. Still fewer would want uncontrolled access to cellphone-based GPS information on present location and uncontrolled access to credit histories. Recent articles on the practice of exchanging Apple iPODs indicate some willingness to exchange uncontrolled information (in this case data related to listening habits) in a tightly controlled setting. Even this data, however, is subject to user interference. Outside the business systems which seek to establish connections between employees and monitoring agents are often restricted to relaying data regarding last login date, date of last profile change and number of times a profile has been viewed by others. Derivatives tend to be time-based and are limited in use. It is rare, for example, to find a service that explores changes in user ratings (supplied by other users) over time even though such information—like information related to sudden stock trading surges—may indicate a range of notable behaviors. Affiliation Rules Present SNP affiliation rules are based overwhelmingly on user profiles and tend to affiliate one or more profile features with features in other profiles. There are two types of affiliations—controlled and uncontrolled. A controlled affiliation involves an exchange of permissions between two users or between a user and a defined entity such as a group or a room. An uncontrolled affiliation results from automatic clustering based on one or more profile features. In the Tribe.net setting, a user can voluntarily associate with groups or with friends. At the same time, the user is allowed to conduct keyword-based or category-based searches that cluster other users into uncontrolled groups by keyword or user profile Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 14
  15. 15. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS criteria. Normally, users sift through one or more uncontrolled groups in order to locate the best candidates for a more labor-intensive controlled affiliation. Keyword-based and category-based searches are very rudimentary by the standards of search technology. In part, better searches depend on more input from the user. In the world of online dating and employment recruiting services, matching agents can provide better results through personality profile, skills and physical attraction tests. These tests have not hit platforms devoted more directly to networking instead of dating but we expect the two areas to converge within the next year. Tests and routines will appear as we search through patents devoted to user affiliation methods. Security Web-platforms promote anonymity, and anonymity both attracts users and presents the most prevalent transaction risk in an online environment. The tension between independence and risk seems to drive demand for tiered disclosure and verification, promoting pre-transaction anonymity and in-transaction disclosure. This demand takes several forms, including: 1. The demand for privacy 2. The demand for secure transactions, from email transactions to financial transactions 3. The need to avoid computer worms, viruses, and worse 4. The need to verify the identities of all parties in a transaction 5. The need to verify the honesty of all parties in a transaction Of the five, the first may present the biggest bar to the generation of information that can be resold on the back end of a service. No user wants all personal information to be made available to uncontrolled third parties. Reports of embarrassing emails have achieved urban legend status while most competent internet users engage in a number of stratagems (including, for example, the creation of a second, unused email box in order to provide an email address when required by third party sites) to prevent the spam that often results from basic transactions. It is apparent that increased requests for user information will need to be matched by robust methods allowing users to control dissemination of that information. Security concerns over credit information have also provided a traditional bar to popular adoption of web-based financial transactions. For the purposes of this report, we will assume that secure transaction services will be provided by third parties just as they are provided today. We will further assume that IP regarding financial transaction security is reasonably well-established and that new secure transaction routines (socket layer security, secure channel communication & etc.) will not emerge from the desks of current social network providers. This is true as well of network security providers specializing in computer worms, viruses, and worse. This leaves us with the need to verify the identities of all parties in a transaction and the need to verify the honesty of all parties in a transaction. Presently many SNP providers are Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 15
  16. 16. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS concerned with the creation of fake profiles on the platform. These profiles, malign or not, do not become a problem until two parties enter into a controlled transaction that requires the disclosure of additional information above and beyond the scope of the standard user information available to all participants in the network. Once this occurs, however, risks increase for the party disclosing personal information. As risk increases, participants in a platform trust the platform less, increasing migration to more secure platforms. Presently end user license agreements do not seem to provide enough of a bar toward this behavior. It may be that identity verification can be obtained by requiring additional user information—a demand that may need to balanced against the perceived security of such information. If user identity verification is an important means of increasing platform trust, user behavior (honesty) verification is equally important. Online auction and reseller operations such as eBay, Amazon.com (the reseller portion) and Half.com all use a rating system in order to encourage integrity on the part of the seller. These operations do less well on the part of buyer-side integrity, preventing, for example, buyers from issuing consistently low ratings to sellers, thus injuring their trust rating6. While such differences matter less where transaction systems such as Paypal and credit systems reduce monetary risk for both parties, such systems may matter more in an environment that encourages social transactions. Presently, the need for trust systems seems to be addressed through personal data (including writing samples), testimonials and the ability to survey bulletin board postings. These systems are not robust enough for high risk transactions such as hiring, blind dating, or sales transactions. It is worth noting that we do not directly cover the following in security: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Firewalls Encryption methods Secure Network Layers such as SSL PKI and related encryption Hard personal identification such as ID cards (credit and other firms have provided a wealth of patents regarding such cards. Lemelson also enjoys patents in this area.) Some or all of these items may be covered in future FirstSearch reports. 6 Ebay auto now rates all parties in a given transaction Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 16
  17. 17. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Market Forces From a business development standpoint, convergent technologies—particularly those in the communications hardware arena—offer several challenges. Systems components such as servers and high bandwidth service are inexpensive, creating a low barrier to market entry. The low barrier to entry encourages competition for end users, increasing the need for easy-to-use interfaces. End users, in turn, invest less in a particular interface and enjoy a low associated cost when switching from one service to another. In November of last year, a rumor that Friendster might begin charging fees swept that particular community7, accompanied by new site recommendations from Tribe.net to Ryze.com. Friendster quashed these rumors, did not charge fees and remains one of the largest online social networking platforms today. It is not clear when, if ever, Friendster will be able to charge fees. Presently, Friendster‘s only end-user demand driver is the sheer number of end-users and the extensive networks (clusters after cluster of friends in different topologies) that the end users have formed. This, in itself, might not provide a sufficient bar to switching. Napster similarly enjoyed extensive use due to the size of its user base but this did not prevent a migration to Kazaa and gnutella when it appeared that Napster would be forced to charge download fees. To extend this comparison between social network platforms and music downloading services, it is worth noting that Apple is enjoying relative success with its iTUNES service because it has correctly balanced the cost to the user (low) with specific improvements over peer to peer networks (consistent download quality) while maintaining a large library with a great deal of popular music—something made possible only through Apple‘s ability to risk capital establishing the service. Music sharing, however, dealt with a specific traded commodity—songs, enabling Apple to broker an improved version of that commodity at a price. At this point, many Social Networking platforms are in the nascent, Napster stage, in possession of only a few nonexclusive assets such as extremely popular user profiles8 and struggling to grow through momentum (rate of end user base growth) alone. What similar, well-defined commodity is being offered through social networking platforms? What improvements can be made that will allow platform providers to charge a fee for service? Static user lists do not in themselves generate money. We suggest instead that revenue can be generated through two sources: the user at the front end of the service and the company seeking user data (aggregated or singular) at the back end. There are two drivers for front end revenue, the size of the network and the ability to connect the right users together. Of the two, it seems that the latter will drive more revenue than the former since the cost of migration from one system to another is relatively low. On the back end, the quality of the user data is directly related to the quality of data imported into the system either at sign-up or through ongoing use. It may be that the best in class social network platform will manage a virtuous cycle where increased user input 7 8 Anectdotal: based on firsthand accounts from Friendster users. Typically actors and actresses. User profiles involving famous people also seem prone to falsification Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 17
  18. 18. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS rewards the user with better associations (connecting with the right people for a given transaction), coaxing the user base to grow despite the raised information bar. At the same time, a combination of large user base and increased user information will allow the creation of datasets that enjoy greater demand on the back end. Further, it may be that many platform providers will concentrate on building and managing the user base (in effect become customer service providers) while the user interface and data mining features will be handled by third parties. Eventually, we may see additional revenue from user demand for trust verification services and fee-based management of proprietary data such as highly qualified sales prospects or exclusive address books of highly trusted network members. Now, if there was only some way to protect these enterprises, few of which have, at this point in the description, created anything completely new. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 18
  19. 19. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Why Consider Intellectual Property? A collection of companies without revenue, whose sole assets are user databases might appear to provide a poor choice for an intellectual property survey. The very nature of a convergent technology based on established hardware platforms and familiar database management techniques leads us to suggest the following: 1. that the current noise surrounding this emerging technology obscures the presently limited scope of original material in this field and; 2. that the core intellectual property that will protect growth in this field may be held elsewhere. With respect to Intellectual Property, convergent technologies present many practical problems. Patent examiners, for example, are implicitly required to have expertise in more than one field. Novelty and obviousness may be harder to establish and, once established, more subject to argument. No longer is it sufficient to look within a narrow set of industry publications when exploring the presence or absence of prior art and no longer can companies blithely trust that their own patent portfolios will provide solid protection from infringement. As a result, the responsibility for patent portfolio management should be company-wide rather than the sole provenance of corporate counsel. While many of the issues surrounding intellectual property are best handled by legal specialists9, corporate counsel will likely be more dependent on and should be more aware of activities both in the engineering department and in marketing/ product development. In the first case, counsel may want to advise on features that can safely be added to a SNP while, in the latter case, the marketing and product development departments may have important insights into competing technologies that emerge on a regular basis. 9 Patent filing, patent prosecution, document management and litigation come to mind Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 19
  20. 20. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Survey Of Social Network Provider Portfolios The following list reaches outside the domain of pure social network providers to include some dating services and job hunting services—both of which are concerned with the essential problem of developing low risk personal matches despite extracting limited user data from a large population. An additional table takes a look at several social network visualization companies. 8minuteDating10 Affinity Engines11 Backwash12 BuddyBridge13 BuddyZoo14 Buzznet15 Chia Friend16 Church Of Fools17 Classmates.com18 Clever Cactus19 Community Zero20 Company of Friends21 Contact Network22 Corporate Alumni23 Delphi Forums24 Dodgeball25 Dogster26 Dude Check This Out!27 Easeek28 Ecademy29 No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Formally, Classmates Online, Inc. No Assigned Patents Discovered Clever Cactus is a desktop P2P applications that restricts access to other users who are Friends. No Assigned Patents Discovered Owned by the Ramius Corporation, a Canadian company, No Assigned Patents Discovered Part of Fast Company, a subsidiary of Gruner + Jar, No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Delphi was owned by Blue Frogg and is now owned by Prospero Technologies, owner of Talk City. None of these parties seem to enjoy patent assignment. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered 10 http://www.8minutedating.com http://www.affinityengines.com 12 http://www.backwash.com/magazine.php 13 http://www.buddybridge.com 14 http://buddyzoo.com/ 15 http://www.buzznet.com/ 16 http://www.chiafriend.com/ 17 http://www.shipoffools.com/church/ 18 http://www.classmates.com 19 http://www.clevercactus.com/share/login.process 20 http://www.communityzero.com/ 21 http://www.fastcompany.com/cof/ 22 http://www.contactnetworkcorp.com 23 http://www.corporatealumni.com/ 24 http://www.delphiforums.com/ 25 http://www.dodgeball.com/social/ 26 http://www.dogster.com/ 27 http://www.dudecheckthisout.com/ 28 http://www.easeek.com/ 29 http://www.ecademy.com 11 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 20
  21. 21. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS eConozco.com eFriendsnet30 Eliyon31 enCentra32 EntreMate33 Eurekster!34 Everyones Connected35 Evite36 First Tuesday37 Friend Surfer38 FriendFan.com39 FriendFinder40 Friendity41 FriendsofFriends42 Friends Reunited43 Friendster44 Friendzy45 Funchain/ Neuracom FunHi Genuosity46 Globe Alive47 GoingProfessional48 Owned by Grupo Galenicom. Neither seems to enjoy assigned patents No Assigned Patents Discovered 27 patents and patent applications including 1 US patent, 5 US applications, 7 Australian patents and 14 PCT filings. The US patent (US6618717: Computer method and apparatus for determining content owner of a website) discloses a method of determining ownership of content on a web page No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered The technology behind Eurekster was developed in part by the people at RealNetworks and in part by the people at S.L.I. Systems. RealNetworks now has partial (at least) ownership of the SixDegrees Patent. S.L.I. has one US patent and two US applications and was formed from GlobalBrain, a search engine developer with four foreign patents. The S.L.I. patent (US6421675: Search engine) specifies a search engine whose database can be updated with a list of user selections from a previous results set. No Assigned Patents Discovered Evite is a subsidiary of InteractiveCorp. Neither Evite nor IACI seem to hold any patents No Assigned Patents Discovered Friendsurfer seems to be owned by Cashsurfer, Inc. Neither have any assigned patents. Apparent subsidiary of RedDate LLC. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Owned by Happy Group Limited. Neither Friends Reunited nor HappyGroup seem to hold any patents No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered FunHi is a Mikusoft product. No assigned patents for either party. Genuosity has developed both HummingBoard and order Generator. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered 30 http://www.efriendsnet.com/ http://www.eliyon.com/PublicSite/public/default.asp 32 http://www.encentra.com/ 33 http://www.entremate.com/ 34 http://eurekster.com/ 35 http://www.everyonesconnected.com/Login/ 36 http://www.evite.com/pages/homepage/index.jsp 37 http://firsttuesday.com/ 38 http://www.friendsurfer.com/ 39 http://www.friendfan.com/ 40 http://friendfinderinc.com 41 http://friendity.de/index.jsp 42 http://www.friendsoffriends.com/ 43 http://www.friendsreunited.com/ 44 http://www.friendster.com 45 http://www.friendzy.com/ 46 http://www.genuosity.com/ 47 http://www.globealive.com/ 31 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 21
  22. 22. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Growth Company49 Gruuve50 HeiYou51 HelloWorld52 hi553 hipstir54 Hotto Link55 Huminity56 I‘m Not From Here57 Impersonals58 InterAction59 Istandfor60 ItsNotWhatYouKnow61 KnowMates62 Lavalife63 LianQu64 Linkedin65 LiveJournal66 Living Directory67 Love.com68 No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Owned by VM direct. HelloWorld was created by the founders of HelloNetwork, Inc. Neither VM Direct nor the Hello companies seem to enjoy any patent assignment. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Koki Uchiyama, the founder of Hotto Link, Inc, may be the listed inventor on one US application (US20020065802A1: Distributed monitoring system providing knowledge services), six foreign counterparts and one additional foreign filing. Huminity is a freeware software application from GlobalShareware available for download to the desktop. Neither Huminity nor Global Shareware seem to enjoy patent assignment. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Part of Interface Software. Neither Interface nor InterAction appear to enjoy patent assignment. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Linkedin now enjoys partial ownership of US6175831: Method and apparatus for constructing a networking database and system. US6175831 patent is covered later in this report. No Assigned Patents Discovered. Anatoly Vorobey, one of the LiveJournal Developers, may be the named inventor of the following Mudtek systems patent: US6282701: System and method for monitoring and analyzing the execution of computer programs. This patent is not directly relevant to Social Networking. No Assigned Patents Discovered Love.com is owned by America Online. A survey of the AOL patents includes a 48 http://www.goingprofessional.com/ http://www.growingco.com/ 50 http://www.gruuve.com/ 51 http://www.heiyou.com/ 52 http://www.helloworld.com/ 53 http://www.hi5.com/friend/displayHome.do 54 http://www.hipstir.com/ 55 http://www.hottolink.com/ds/index.asp 56 http://www.huminity.com/default.php?screen=0&international=1 57 http://www.imnotfromhere.com/DesktopDefault.aspx 58 http://www.impersonals.com/ 59 http://www.interfacesoftware.com/products/interaction/ia_summary.cfm 60 http://www.istandfor.com 61 http://www.itsnotwhatyouknow.com/ 62 http://www.knowmates.com/ 63 http://www.lavalife.com 64 http://lianqu.com.cn/index.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fhome.aspx 65 https://www.linkedin.com 66 http://www.livejournal.com 67 http://www.livingdirectory.org 68 http://love.com/ 49 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 22
  23. 23. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Lycos Social Networking Match.com69 survey of patents assigned to Time Warner and subsidiaries (including AOL Acquisition Corp, Netscape Communications Corp And Time Warner Interactive Grp Inc.). This totals roughly 324 US patents and 574 patents/ patent applications worldwide. Some of patents will be reviewed later in the report. Lycos is owned by Terra Networks, part of Telefonica (neither of which seem to hold relevant patents). Lycos has 21 patents/ associated patent applications including US6308175 Integrated collaborative/content-based filter structure employing selectively shared, content-based profile data to evaluate information entities in a massive information network. Lycos will be reviewed along with AOL and Yahoo! later in the report. Match.com is owned by Interactive Corp, parent company to Citysearch Expedia, Home Shopping Network, Hotels.com, Hotwire, LendingTree, and Ticketmaster. Expedia enjoys 10 Foreign filings and 1 US application. Lending Tree has one Australian patent. None of the published patents seem relevant to social networks. The Match.com personality testing engines are supplied by a company called WeAttract70. Neither WeAttract nor the listed management team members seem to be associated with any patents. At the same time, a 2001 press release on the site states the following: ―…weAttract.com, a company that uses science and technology to enhance human relationships, announced today that it has been granted a three provisional patents by the U.S. Patent Office for its personality assessment technology.‖ These applications do not seem to have been published. Matcheroo72 Mediabistro73 MeetUp74 MixerMixer75 Monster Networking76 mrNeighborhood77 MyEMatch78 MySpace NetDiva NetFriendships79 The Match.com platform (in particular the wireless application) seems to be powered through Soulmates71 Technology, also an InerActiveCorp subsidiary. Soulmates does not seem to enjoy any assigned patents. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Monster Networking is part of Monster.com, which is a subsidiary of TMP worldwide (now Monster Worldwide). TMP holds 1 US and 3 foreign patents. The US Patent, US5832497 Electronic automated information exchange and management system does not seem relevant enough for inclusion. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered MySpace may be related to the security company MySpace, Inc. which is a subsidiary of MySpace AB in Sweden. If this is the case then MySpace AB has one data security patent , US6618809: Method and security system for processing a security critical activity. It is possible, however, that MySpace is a part of e-universe, which does not seem to hold any US patents. NetDiva has not been characterized. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered 69 http://match.com/ http://www.weattract.com 71 http://www.soulmatestechnology.com/who_we_are.htm 72 http://www.matcheroo.com 73 http://mediabistro.com/ 74 http://www.meetup.com/ 75 http://www.mixermixer.com/ 76 http://network.monster.com/NewEntry.aspx?mode=one 77 http://www.mrneighborhood.com/ 78 http://www.myematch.com/ 70 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 23
  24. 24. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Netmodular Community80 Netparty81 Netplaya Burning Man Community82 Neurona83 Networking For Professionals84 Open Business Club85 Orkut86 thePalace.com87 PalJunction88 Passion.com89 Peeps Nation90 PeopleStream91 Plaxo92 Netmodular is a division of Object Enterprises, Inc. Object Enterprises indicates that it has built its platforms using three resources: Apple‘s WebObjects software coupled with Apple‘s Darwin Opensource OSX Core (…‖a version of the BSD UNIX operating system that offers advanced networking, services such as the Apache web server, and support for both Macintosh and UNIX file systems. It was originally released in March 1999‖) in combination with Sun Microsystems Java2 Platform. Neither netModular nor Object Enterprises appear to enjoy patent assignment. No Assigned Patents Discovered One of the NetModular Modules. No Assigned Patents Discovered Related to InfoJobs.net. Neither Neurona nor InfoJobs seems to hold any assigned patents. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Orkut is a Google, Inc. creation. Google is currently assigned to 5 US patents and four applications with no apparent foreign holdings. Of the 10 Google patents/ applications, US6725259: Ranking search results by reranking the results based on local inter-connectivity and US6526440: Ranking search results by reranking the results based on local inter-connectivity may be the most relevant to social networks. This patent discloses a method of relating two documents by the number of mutual references from other documents. The inventor, Krishna Bharat, has worked for a number of other firms including AltaVista and HP. ThePalace.com is a virtual chat ‗world‘ employing avatars. No Assigned Patents Discovered. No Assigned Patents Discovered. A Friendfinder subsidiary. No Assigned Patents Discovered. A subsidiary of Trilibis. Neither Peeps Nation nor Trilibis seem to enjoy patent assignment. PeopleStream does not seem to enjoy direct patent assignment but the company principals are listed as inventors on relevant patents. 4/5 of the management team, for example, are listed as inventors on EP1269293A2: Exchanging Information Over A Trusted Network Of People— assigned to HighTech Ventures. Ed Takacs, CEO and Founder (and one of the inventors on the previous patent), is affiliated through past employment with several companies that could make inroads in this area. In particular, he is associated with Firefly, the assignee on a potentially important social networking patent now held through acquisition by Microsoft. No Assigned Patents Discovered. 79 http://www.netfriendships.com/ http://www.netmodular.com/ 81 http://www.netparty.com/ 82 http://www.netplaya.com/ 83 http://www.neurona.com 84 http://www.networkingforprofessionals.com/ 85 http://www.openbc.com/ 86 http://www.orkut.com 87 http://www.thepalace.com 88 http://www.paljunction.com/ 89 http://passion.com/ 90 http://www.peepsnation.com/ 91 http://www.peoplestream.com 80 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 24
  25. 25. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS PowerMingle93 Qpengyou94 RateOrDate95 RealContacts Ltd96 RedDate.com97 ReferNet98 RepCheck99 Ringo100 Ryze101 Salesforce.com102 Seattle Networking Guide Silicon Valley Pipeline103 Skype104 Small World Project105 Social Circles106 SocialGrid107 No Assigned Patents Discovered. Subsidiary of Wonkankan. Patent pending notice on website. No Assigned Patents Discovered. In January of 2004, the creators and owners of RateOrDate.com, listed their website http://www.rateordate.com/ for sale on eBay. The owner and CEO of InterMedia Inc., Jay Gould, created a sister company called SocialTree.com Inc., focused on social networking. Intermedia may have patents. Realcontacts has one PCT application, WO03030051A1: Connection Service, which addresses ―a system providing one or more users with a private personal network formed from contacts with one or more entities known directly or indirectly to the user and allows a user to apply a selective interaction with the entities for a predetermined activity by controlling the entities to be included according to their degree of separation from the user‖. This application may become useful as it is issued in patent form in one or more countries. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Ringo is part of Tickle, Inc. which was founded in 1999 as eMode. None of these parties seem to enjoy patent assignment. Adrian Scott, the founder of Ryze, is a listed inventor on a current application (US20020049760A1: Technique for accessing information in a peer-to-peer network) assigned to Flycode, Inc., a company that Mr. Scott founded. Ryze does not seem to enjoy patent assignment. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered. Only limited information available. May be a subsidiary of I.L.S. Communications. I.L.S. does not seem to enjoy patent assignment. No Assigned Patents Discovered Skype is in internet telephony portal developed by the creators of Kazaa. It works on a P2P platform and allows the user to make calls to other members of the P2P social network. No Assigned Patents Discovered. The Small World Project is a project out of Columbia University. The experiment is geared toward gaining a better picture of the ―N degrees of separation‖ between any two people. 4000+ people participated in the experiment. No Assigned Patents Discovered. Associated with ConnectMe. No Assigned Patents Discovered Associated with Aluran. No Assigned Patents of Patent Applications discovered. Chau Vuong, CEO of Social Grid, does not seem to be listed as a published 92 http://www.plaxo.com http://www.powermingle.com/home.asp 94 http://www.qpengyou.com/ 95 http://www.rateordate.com/ 96 http://www.realcontacts.com 97 http://www.reddate.com/ 98 http://www.refernet.net/ 99 http://www.repcheck.com/ 100 http://connect.tickle.com/ 101 http://www.ryze.com 102 http://www.salesforce.com 103 http://www.siliconvalleypipeline.com/ 104 http://www.skype.com/ 105 http://smallworld.columbia.edu/ 106 http://www.socialcircles.com/ 107 http://www.socialgrid.com/ 93 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 25
  26. 26. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS SocialText108 SocialTree109 Sona110 Spoke111 Squiby112 StumbleUpon113 Sullivan Executive Networking Community114 Talk City115 TENG116 inventor on any published US or Foreign patents or patent applications. An intellectual property statement (not in the ―Terms and Conditions‖ section) states: ―SocialGrid has retained one of the top intellectual property law firms in America. Everything on this site is copyrighted and trademarked, including our search and coding system. Our patent application claims coverage on searches for all complex objects using Internet search engines. Our goal is to ensure a search system that will be free to our members and keep individuals and corporations from profiting by charging for searches. We will marginalize every profit margin. There is no money to be made in creating another ID coding system. The world needs only one system. If necessary, we will give SocialGrid and the patent to Google to insure one standardized coding system. Any copycats and clones will have to answer to Google. Please be advised that any copyright, trademark, and patent infringement will result in legal action.‖ No Assigned Patents Discovered. Peter Kaminski, SocialText‘s CTO, is listed as the inventor on two patents held by Yipes Communications, Inc. but neither of these patents (US6359882 Method and apparatus for transmitting data and US6282172 Generating acknowledgement signals in a data communication system) seem close enough to social network platforms to be included in this report. Owned by Intermedia, Inc. Intermedia may have patents but this has not been fully determined. (see Rate or Date above) Now hi5 (see above) Adam Slovik, Spoke‘s SVP of products, is the listed inventor on 2 US patents with nine foreign counterparts. These patents are assigned to Tenfold Corporation, a company that he co-founded in 1993. Andy Halliday, VP of Business development, previously served as president and CEO of Contact Networks, a company with 12 foreign filings, all oriented toward synchronizing user information over multiple networks. Contact Networks has recently filed an application for a US patent addressing the same technology. Andy Rosenbaum, Chief Architect for Spoke, was—prior to a stint with Yahoo!—the Chief Architect at e-centives, a company with 27 patents, including one US patent addressing name normalization across different databases. Each member of the management team has held additional positions in larger companies from Yahoo! to Oracle Corp and Sun Microsystems. In September 2003, several articles appeared indicating that Spoke Software had 15 technology patents filed with the US patent office. Either these patents are filed under the names of presently undisclosed inventors or Spoke has placed a number of provisional patent applications on file. We cannot determine the disposition of the patents or the final nature of the issues claims in any such patents at this time. Part of Squiby Omnimedia. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered. Sullivan is associated with NetModular, the Object Enterprises company listed earlier in the table. Part of Delphi Forums. No Assigned Patents Discovered The Technology Executives Networking Group, sponsored by Bruner 108 http://www.socialtext.com/ http://www.socialtree.com 110 http://www.hi5.com/friend/displayHome.do 111 http://www.spoke.com 112 http://www.squiby.com 113 http://www.stumbleupon.com 114 http://www.sullivanexecutive.com/community.html 115 http://www.talkcity.com/ 116 http://teng.scottopia.com/ 109 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 26
  27. 27. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS The Conneck The Lunch Club NYC117 The Opinion Exchange118 Tickle by Emode Tribe119 uDate.com120 UserPlane121 UUFriends122 Visible Path123 Wallop124 Whiz Spark125 WiW126 WorldShine127 Yafro128 Yahoo!129 YeeYoo130 YOYO131 Zdarmanet / Zdarma Co. Zerendipity132 ZeroDegrees133 Consulting Associates, Inc. No Assigned Patents Discovered No available website. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered See Ringo, above. No Assigned Patents Discovered Tribe now enjoys partial ownership of US6175831: Method and apparatus for constructing a networking database and system. US6175831 patent is covered later in this report. No Assigned Patents Discovered Part of Kiss.com which is part of Match.com. See Match.com entry, above. No Assigned Patents Discovered A subsidiary of UUZone Interactive. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Wallop is a project run by the Social Computing Group at Microsoft Research. Microsoft is listed as the assignee on roughly 8,300 patents and patent applications worldwide. We will need to take a more careful look in order to discern those patents that may be applicable to Social Networking. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered Yahoo! Inc. owns Overture, Inc, which has one important social networking patent under the former name of GoTo.com. Yahoo! also owns Altavista (through Overture) and part of Fast Search and Transfer (again, through Overture). We will take a closer look at Yahoo! patents at the end of this report. No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered No Assigned Patents Discovered. In his biography, Andrew Jones— Zerendipity‘s Chairman and CEO—refers to a patent granted while at Broadcom. This is likely EP1306757A2: Transferring data along with code for program overlays. If this is the case, then Mr. Jones is likely the named inventor on US20040015923A1: Apparatus and method to reduce memory footprints in processor architectures—currently unassigned but likely held by Broadcom. Neither of these patents seem closely relevant to Social Networking. No Assigned Patents Discovered. Sid Conklin, the CTO, lists two patents in his bio. These are likely US6282522: Internet payment system using smart card 117 http://thelunchclub.net/clubhouse/ https://www.opinion-exchange.com/ 119 http://www.tribe.net 120 http://www.udate.com 121 http:// www.kiss.com 122 http://www.uufriends.com/ 123 http://www.visiblepath.com 124 http://mywallop.com/ 125 http://www.whizspark.com/ 126 http://www.wiw.hu/hu/index.php 127 http://www.worldshine.com/ 128 http://www.yafro.com 129 http://personals.yahoo.com/ 130 http://www.yeeyoo.com/ 131 http://www.yoyonet.cn/index.jsp 132 http://www.zerendipity.com/ 133 http://www.zerodegrees.com/ 118 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 27
  28. 28. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS and US6105008 Internet loading system using smart card, neither of which are close enough to social network platforms to be included in this report. Social Network Analysis Tools Orgnet-Inflow134 WisdomBuilder135 UCINet136 IKnow137 Loom138 NetMiner139 No Assigned Patents Discovered. Wisdom Builder is ―A fully integrated information gathering, data visualization, information analysis and reporting tool….‖ Rather than a social network platform. It is supported by one US patent (US6327586 System method and computer program product to automate the management and analysis of heterogeneous data), 1 US application and two foreign filings. The patent contains the following claim (Claim 31): A method for displaying a visual representation depicting relationships between objects stored in a database, said method comprising the steps of:  creating a database having a plurality of records, wherein each said record represents a relationship between two objects;  selecting two objects for determining the relationships therebetween;  determining relationships between said two objects, wherein said relationships include direct and indirect relationships; and  displaying the visual representation, wherein the visual representation is adjustable by a user according to a desired degree of separation between said two objects. No Assigned Patents Discovered This is a project out of the University of Illinois. None of the principals seem to hold any patents. Loom is a visualization tool for Usenet developed through MIT‘s Sociable Media Group. A search of SMG members and alumni reveals—with one exception—only one patent application US20030079218A1: Remote collaborative control and direction, co-invented by several members of the Sociable Computing Group. The exception, Rebecca Xiong, is listed as an inventor on US6594673 Visualizations for collaborative information (assigned to Microsoft), US6480194 Computer-related method, system, and program product for controlling data visualization in external dimension(s) (assigned to Silicon Graphics) and US20030030634A1 Computer-related method, system, and program product for controlling data visualization in external dimension(s). Ms. Xiong developed the first patent with Steven Drucker, an important Microsoft inventor who appears later in this report. Netminer is a visualization tool rather than a Social Networking platform. No Assigned Patents Discovered 134 http://www.orgnet.com/ http://www.wisdombuilder.com/ 136 http://www.analytictech.com/ucinet.htm 137 http://www.spcomm.uiuc.edu/Projects/TECLAB/IKNOW/index.html 138 http://web.media.mit.edu/~kkarahal/loom/ 139 http://www.netminer.com 135 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 28
  29. 29. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS RepTools140 Cakehouse Antology141 Vizster142 NetVis143 Produced by Practical Gatherings, a division of Social Solutions, Inc. Patricia Sachs, the founder of Practical Gatherings, is a named inventor on two patents assigned to Institute for Research on Learning, which is associated with Bell Labs. The first of these patents, US5745113: Representing work practices, has an interesting claim (Claim 25) which specifies a relationship editor which ―simultaneously displays in response to a user request two relationship diagrams of different kinds selected from organization chart, kinship diagram, set diagram, or social network, as overlays one over the other‖ The other patent, US6216098: Simulating work behavior, is an interesting patent that attempts to model interactions between user beliefs and objective facts. It seems that many of the claims are limited by the phrase ―provide them in the form of assistance or teaching to the user.‖ Otherwise the modeling could possibly be used for user identification. No Assigned Patents Discovered Neither Jefferey Heer nor Marti Hearst—the two developers--- seem to enjoy any patents. Both work in the computer science department at the University of California which has roughly 385 computer/ network patents. No Assigned Patents Discovered 140 http://www.practicalgatherings.com/workplace_anthro/rep_tools/RepTools.html http://www.cakehouse.co.uk/home.asp 142 http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~jheer/infovis/final/ 143 http://www.netvis.org/resources.php 141 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 29
  30. 30. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Search Results: Overall Statistics The search strategy used in this report generated three sets of results. The first set, on the preceding page, resulted from a search by assignee and inventor for companies and management staff involved with social network technologies. The last search in the report will focus on inventors associated with selected companies. The middle search begins with multiple keyword searches followed by identification of robust patents and an examination of cited intellectual property in the space around the robust patents. In the course of this step, we note the 19 patents below for their relevance to social networking: Publication Title Number Assignee/Applicant Publication Number of Report Section Name Date Forward References Microsoft 11/21/2000 2 User Profile Corporation US6151585 Methods and apparatus for determining or inferring influential rumormongers from resource usage data US5987415 Modeling a user's emotion and Microsoft 11/16/1999 personality in a computer user Corporation interface US6144964 Methods and apparatus for tuning Microsoft 11/7/2000 a match between entities having Corporation attributes US6345264 Methods and apparatus, using Microsoft 2/5/2002 expansion attributes having Corporation default, values, for matching entities and predicting an attribute of an entity US6735568 Method and system for Eharmony.com 5/11/2004 identifying people who are likely to have a successful relationship US6272467 System for data collection and Spark Network 8/7/2001 matching compatible profiles Services, Inc. US5594910 Interactive computer network and IBM Corp. 1/14/1997 method of operation US6466917 Method and apparatus for eBay Inc. 10/15/2002 verifying the identity of a participant within an on-line auction environment US6119135 Method for passively browsing AT&T Corporation 9/12/2000 the internet using images extracted from web pages US5754939 System for generation of user HERZ; 5/19/1998 profiles for a system for FREDERICK S. customized electronic M.|EISNER; JASON identification of desirable objects M. et al US6327586 System method and computer WisdomBuilder, 12/4/2001 program product to automate the L.L.C. management and analysis of heterogeneous data US5872850 System for enabling information Microsoft 2/16/1999 marketplace Corporation Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 18 User Profile 7 Affiliation 1 Affiliation 0 Affiliation 8 Affiliation 86 Network 0 Security 10 Navigation 180 User Profile 1 Visualization 25 Network Page 30
  31. 31. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS US6516349 System for updating a set of instantiated content providers based on changes in content provider directory without interruption of a network information services US6034681 Dynamic data link interface in a graphic user interface US5442778 Scatter-gather: a cluster-based method and apparatus for browsing large document collections US6064666 Cross service common user image association Sun Microsystems, 2/4/2003 Inc. 1 International 3/7/2000 2 Business Machines Corp. Xerox Corporation 8/15/1995 68 International 5/16/2000 7 Business Machines Corporation US6581096 Scalable computing system for Microsoft 6/17/2003 0 managing dynamic communities Corporation in multiple tier computing system US6049805 Dynamic event mechanism for Microsoft 4/11/2000 5 objects with associational Corporation relationships US6286104 Authentication and authorization Oracle Corporation 9/4/2001 2 in a multi-tier relational database management system User Profile Visualization Navigation User Profile Network Network Security The patents above tend to enjoy at least one broad claim while disclosing methods, systems or apparatus that are highly relevant to social networking. If to does not seem reasonable to read all of the patents mentioned in this report, it may still be worthwhile to review the patents above patents separately. Each of these patents will be discussed later in the context of the keyword search results. It is worth noting that, while Microsoft dominates the selection above, the patents are not held solely by large companies. One of the patents, US5754939, remains unassigned and seems to be held by its inventors, Mssrs. Herz, Eisner and Ungar. When we consider the number of forward citations, we see that 13 of the 19 patents have received fewer than 10 forward citations, a surprising result given the spread of issuance dates between 1995 and 2004 (we should not be surprised that the 2004 patent is uncited). In addition, the reader may want to consider Microsoft‘s relative dominance in the table above, holding 7 patents to IBM‘s 3 even though IBM manages holds 50 of the 210 patents in the larger set, to Microsoft‘s 26. We will try to address this incongruity when we look at the Microsoft and IBM Social Computing Groups at the end of the report. ANALYTIC TOOLS AND CONVERGENT TECHNOLOGIES Before leaping into the keyword-based patent investigation, we should pause for a moment and consider whether aggregate patent statistics will offer valuable insights into this particular field. An affirmative answer may point to opportunities for future work through the application of patent analysis software. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 31
  32. 32. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS In the course of the keyword searches, we generated several sets of patents, the most important of which were our starting and ending sets. Our starting sets were generated from the initial keyword searches in the spirit of the ones provided below:   (((profile) AND (user OR subscriber) AND (system OR network OR email)) <in> CLAIMS) (((((user* OR participant*) <near/10> (relate OR affiliate OR associate OR association OR similarity OR match OR relation OR affiliation OR relationship) AND (measure OR determine OR detect OR express) AND network)) <in> CLAIMS)) This general search for terms relating to ―user‖ and ―profile‖ in the claims section of published US patents and patent applications resulted in roughly 1,782 patents and 2,646 applications. Similarly, the general search for terms relating to ―user‖ and ―affiliation‖ in the claims section of published US patents and patent applications resulted in roughly 1,213 patents and 2,883 applications. After adding in the results of a few additional searches, we generate a total starting set of 4,627 patents. From this set we carved out a restricted subset of 80-100 published US patents. This set was then enlarged by following citation trails through the US Patent database. These trails included both forward and backward citations and often involved following multiple backward citation tiers only to move forward in a different direction. We did this until we began seeing the same patents on a regular basis, marking out co-citation clusters and using different clusters to assist in the identification of highly relevant patents. In the end, this led to our set of 210 patents. We can discern the relevance of aggregate techniques by comparing some simple aggregated data in the larger set with parallel aggregated data in the hand-selected focus set. To begin, let‘s look at the aggregate results for the larger set. Even after discounting single inventors, the published patents remain widely distributed among roughly 409 different assignees. Roughly 46% of these assignees enjoy only one patent, while those enjoying 2-10 patents comprise another 42% of the assignees while the last 14% of assignees hold over 10 patents apiece. Published Patents 200 150 # of 100 Assignees 50 0 10+ Patents 3 OR 4 Patents 1 Patent # of Patents Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 32
  33. 33. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Patent holders with more than 10 patents include IBM (333 patents), followed by Microsoft (101), AT&T (82), Eriksson (77), Lucent (70), Motorola (59), Hitachi (58), and Xerox (22). Most of these patents (29.5%) were filed in 1998 and 1999. When we consider our smaller, focused patent set, we see that the overall distribution is only slightly more polarized in favor of single patent companies. Similarly, top patent holders include IBM (50 patents), followed by Microsoft (24). However, Microsoft is now followed by Intel (11), Tacit Knowledge Systems (9), Xerox (8), Nortel (8) and Sun (7). Again, most of these patents (36.7%) were filed in 1998 and 1999. Published Patents 60 50 40 # of 30 Assignees 20 10 0 10+ Patents 3 or 4 Patents 1 Patent Portfolio Size Determining assignment is more difficult in the context of applications. Few companies normally assume assignment during the application process, restricting ownership information to the inventor. In this case, of the 5,398 applications recovered through our initial search, a maximum of 1,499 enjoy an assignee. Of these, the top assignees include IBM (215 applications), Philips (49 applications), Microsoft (31 applications), Metrologic (27 applications), and Alcatel (24 applications). Assignment diverges in our focus subset, led again by IBM (528 Applications), followed by Philips (182 applications), Microsoft (73 applications), Sun (73 applications), Xerox (65 applications), and Yahoo! (37 applications). One notable shift occurs when we examine assigned application distributions across the each set. In the larger application set, we see that single application holders dominate the larger set: Assigned Applications 600 400 # of Applications 200 0 10+ Apps 3 or 4 Apps 1 App # of Companies Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 33
  34. 34. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS However, when we look at the applications associated with inventors listed in our focus set, we find that the application distribution has evened out, with a plurality of companies filing over 10 applications: Patent Applications The application distribution tells us something about the nature 20 of the technology at hand. 15 # of In the larger set, we pulled 10 Assignees numerous applications 5 from a wide variety of 0 10+ 3 or 4 1 Appl technologies, some of Appl Appl which are converging toward social networking. Portfolio Size Many of these technologies are well established and, to generalize, the companies holding these technologies may refrain from filing additional applications in an established and well-patented field. The focus subset is changing more rapidly, leading first to a better ratio between patents and applications (210 patents to 1237 applications versus 4,600 patents to 5,300 applications) and to a better application distribution, spurred by heavy R&D investment in a new technology. Please be warned that differences between methods used to derive applications in the larger set (repeat of keyword searches in the US application database) and methods used to derive applications associated with smaller set (additive searches for specific inventors in the US patent database) restrict the quality of our results in this matter, reducing a potentially useful observation to a mere generalization. In summary, aggregate patent data is only mildly useful in the domain of social networking technology. Had we used the data for the large set alone, we would have developed a good picture of the initial patent distribution but would have misidentified many of the important companies after IBM and Microsoft. We further would have seen an application distribution that would lead us to believe that the established companies are slowing their R&D work proportionally to the rest of the market, allowing numerous small players to pursue one or two patents apiece where a better picture might involve a much more even struggle in the R&D space. Anecdotally, we found high error rates (roughly 20 non-relevant patents for every relevant patent) when conducting the partial searches (searches by top assignee) that allowed us to develop the core subset of 80-100 patents144. Many of the patents in the total set dealt very well with component technologies but failed to bring two or more component technologies together (such as searching and user profiles) to address technologies that could inform new social networking platform services. 144 This is the set that grew to 210 after cited patents were investigated Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 34
  35. 35. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS The following is a more complete, alphabetical list of the companies in the focus subset and set of associated applications. Notice that no company with more than one patent has failed to file at least one additional application. Company/ # Patents / # Applications Accenture Llp 3 Adheris, Inc. 1 Agent Arts, Inc. 1 Alza Corporation 1 Andersen Consulting Properties 1 Bv At&T Bell Laboratories 2 At&T Corp. 2 Banyan Systems, Inc. 1 Be Free, Inc. 1 Bell & Howell Mail And Messaging Technologies 1 Company Bellsouth Corporation 1 British Telecommunications 1 Public Limited Company Burning Glass Technologies, Llc 1 Casio Computer Co., Ltd. 1 Charisma Colors, Inc. 1 Clear Direction, Inc. 1 Client Dy*mics, Inc. 1 Computer X, Inc. 1 Cybergold, Inc. 1 Cyva Research Corporation 1 Digital Equipment Corporation 1 EBay Inc. 1 Eharmony.Com 1 Electronic Data Systems 2 Corporation Entrust Technologies 1 Expanse Network, Inc. 1 Expanse Networks, Inc. 1 First Data Corporation 1 France Telecom 1 Fujitsu Limited 4 Google Inc. 3 Hewlett-Packard Co. 3 Hitachi, Ltd. 3 HRL Laboratories, LLC 1 IBM Corp. 50 Image, Inc. 1 Image Data, Llc 1 Installation Software 1 Technologies, Inc. 15 1 1 * 2 6 3 1 * 1 * 3 1 * * * 2 10 * 6 1 16 2 9 3 17 * * * 31 11 8 4 6 528 1 3 Intel Corporation Juno Online Services, L.P. Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. Lawyershomepagenetwork, Inc. Lucent Technologies Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. MCI Microsoft Corporation Movo Media, Inc. Mpath Interactive, Inc. Neonics, Inc. Netspan Corporation New York University Nortel Networks Corporation Pinpoint [Hertz] Proleamers, Llc Purpleyogi.Com Inc. Regents Of The University Of Minnesota Sharp Laboratories Of America, Inc. Siemens Aktiengesellschaft Singles Advantage Spark Network Services, Inc. Spherion Assessment, Inc. Sun Microsystems, Inc. Tacit Knowledge System, Inc. Telcontar Telefo*ktiebolaget Lm Ericsson Tele-Publishing, Inc. Texas Instruments Incorporated Tumbleweed Software Corporation Wertheim; Gary D. Wisdombuilder, L.L.C. Xerox Corporation Xoucin, Inc. Yahoo! Inc. Youpowered, Inc. 11 1 26 13 2 182 1 4 * 7 2 9 2 24 1 1 1 1 1 8 2 1 1 2 75 * 2 3 * * 23 8 1 1 1 3 1 6 1 1 1 1 7 9 4 1 1 1 * * 4 2 73 5 13 4 3 3 1 8 1 1 8 2 1 1 * 1 65 6 37 * * On the next two pages, we present, in table form, some data concerning the filing year and patent classes associated with the focus patents and associated applications. In addition, we present some data regarding forward citations, separated by technology area. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 35
  36. 36. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Filing Year Filing Year 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 # of Patents 1 2 13 29 34 43 29 22 11 6 8 1 4 1 2 1 2 * 1 # of Applications 96 364 608 94 37 55 9 * * * * * * * 1 1 2 * 3 It is interesting that the number of patent applications dropped in 2003. This could indicate that the top inventors may have slowed publication as new researchers enter the scene at the major companies. In general, patent applications seem to run along the 20/80 rule where 20% of the inventors in an R&D department will be responsible for 80% of the filings. Given our research methods, a shift in this 20% could result in a perceived filing drop. The Top 20 US Patent/ Application Classes Please note that class 345 has been abolished by the USPTO. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 U.S. Patent Class- 3 digit Item Count 707 709 345 705 395 715 706 364 379 713 455 380 704 725 370 434 001 700 273 340 101 71 44 43 37 23 22 15 13 12 10 6 6 6 5 5 4 4 3 3 U.S. Item Application Count Class- 3 digit 709 247 705 235 707 202 345 89 455 63 725 58 715 52 340 43 713 43 717 43 348 40 370 40 382 39 379 37 706 20 714 19 701 18 434 15 702 15 704 15 Page 36
  37. 37. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS A Look at Forward Citations by Category. Reading the top line of the chart, 67 patents have 0 forward references—12 of these are affiliation patents, 2 are bulletin & etc. # Fwd Ref 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 24 25 26 29 34 39 41 47 48 49 50 59 61 64 68 69 71 74 78 86 88 98 102 108 109 110 111 121 163 169 180 186 325 Bulletin Affiliation Chat 12 8 1 2 1 2 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 User Grand Monitoring Navigation Network Searching Security Services Profile Visualization Total 2 2 2 6 8 10 4 17 4 67 1 1 1 1 7 3 22 1 2 2 1 1 1 3 12 1 1 1 2 2 1 10 1 2 1 5 1 2 2 5 1 1 1 2 5 1 3 1 1 1 1 7 1 2 1 5 1 1 1 3 6 1 1 3 2 1 2 5 1 1 2 1 4 1 1 2 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 2 2 1 3 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 37
  38. 38. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS The Keyword Searches We begin by examining relevant issued patents held by top companies in this area. As we discern better patents with broader claims that address features unique to social networking platforms, we may add to our list of relevant companies. We will stop periodically to summarize our findings and take a look at the larger landscape. We provide the results in the Keyword search section in a particular format, accompanied by two numbers. We use the Accenture/ Andersen patent (also featured on the next page) as an example: Patent Number US6697824 Published 2004 Priority 1999 Patent Title Relationship management in an Ecommerce application framework Technology Focus / Notable Claim User Profile/ Information— Provides a method for collecting user information, building a profile, matching that profile to different content modules and then allowing the user to arrange the selected contents. (Claim 1) Possible SNP Embodiment/ Relevance (1-10 scale) Could be relevant in situations where larger social networking platforms wish to suggest group membership to users and then allow the users to arrange those selections on screen. (4) The claim number in the third column relates to the claim that we found to be the most interesting in the patent, reflecting a subjective call on our part. While this feature may not be helpful in cases where the first claim seems most interesting, there are cases where a broad claim is placed farther in the claims text. Where appropriate, we attempt to point out this claim. Please note that some patents do not have an associated claim number. These patents may still possess broad claims and should still be reviewed by counsel. At the same time, the mention of one or several claim numbers should not be construed as an indirect comment on any quality of the other claims in the patent—all of which should still be reviewed for breadth and support. Please note as well that we offer no comment (even on the numbered claims) regarding support from specifications. A broad, unsupported claim may still be in trouble. The parenthetical number in the fourth column reflects our sense (on a 1-10 scale, 10 highest) of the relevance that the patent bears to social networking. When looking at this number, we ask that you keep the following points in mind:    Patents included in this report all have some relevance to social networking We favor patents that cross over a number of different technology areas. To this end, a patent that has a low number may still be highly relevant to a single social networking technology. In addition, a patent with a low number may be highly relevant to products and services outside of the domain of social networking technology. The number is a comment on the technology disclosed by the patent, not a comment on the quality and/ or breadth of the claims. This is why we are separating the claims and technology in different columns. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 38
  39. 39. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS USER PROFILES Many of the relevant user profile patents concerned a connection between a user profile and a search engine. Here, the user profile is intended to inform the selection of a results subset based on interests & etc disclosed in the profile itself. It is important to note that many of the patents attempting to cover user profile-based searching seem to overlap with each other, differentiating themselves in the claims language through the use of odd terms ranging from ―info-bits‖ to ―clue streams‖. This implies that proper evaluation of these patents will depend in part on careful examination of the specifications—something that goes beyond the scope of this report. Accenture/ Andersen Accenture‘s patents tend to address user profiles that enable other parties to provide lowrisk services to the user. These ‗inbound-service‘ profiles typically attempt to run searches according to specifications in the user profile, returning lists of goods or services that the user is likely to want. Current social network matching, on the other hand, can match two inbound service profiles, assuming that the first user may provide a service to the second user and vice-versa. Future platforms may shift away from inbound service toward outbound service, providing better indicators of a user‘s ability to provide high quality services and/or reduce risk for other parties that may enter a transaction. US6697824 Published 2004 Relationship management in an Ecommerce application framework User Profile/ Information— Provides a method for collecting user information, building a profile, matching that profile to different content modules and then allowing the user to arrange the selected contents. (Claim 1) Could be relevant in situations where larger social networking platforms wish to suggest group membership to users and then allow the users to arrange those selections on screen. (4) System, method and article of manufacture for a tuned user application experience User Profiles/ Searching—Begin with a user profile, use it to retrieve content, filter and parse content, make sure that the filtered, parsed content matches the profile and add text explaining the match to the user. (Claim 1) Possibly supports better integration of search results. Seems closely connected in style to US6697824 (3) Priority 1999 US6195651 The Accenture inventors are associated with 15 additional patent applications. Michel Bowman-Amuah, inventor on the ‗824 patent, is associated with 52 published US patents. Many of these patents concern higher-level problems such as delivering multiple services across multiple interfaces. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 39
  40. 40. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS AT&T US6546005 Active user registry User Profiles—A registry actively tracks users communications preferences and provides contact channels according to user preferences upon subscriber query. (Claim 1) Could support multi-peripheral social networks. This patent is really closer to a unified messaging patent (4) David Berkley, Richard Rabiner and Eric Sumner are associated with separate patent application (US20020131573A1), also called Active User Registry. Be Free Be Free and Commission Junction merged in March of 2004. Commission junction is an online advertising/ affiliate marketing firm. US5991735 Computer program apparatus for determining behavioral profile of a computer user User Profiles—A general patent that records user interaction with ―agate‖- material (such as stock quotes) that is not read in a linear fashion. And develops a profile based on these interactions. (Claim 15) Could cover profiling based on interactions with other user profiles to the extent that a user profile reflects ―time-sensitive, reference information that is not read linearly‖ To this end, it provides some basic claims in the area of derivative profiling. (9) Thomas Gerace, the listed inventor on the ‗735 patent, is listed as inventor on a similar patent, US5848396: Method and apparatus for determining behavioral profile of a computer user, assigned to Freedom of Information, Inc. In Cambridge, MA. Bell & Howell Mail and Messaging Technologies Company US6701315 Issued: 2004 Priority: 1997 Systems, methods, and computer program products for delivering information in a preferred medium User Profiles—An extremely broad unified messaging patent. Specifies the delivery of information media in a format specified by the user profile. (Claims 1,44,53) This may be most applicable to social networks and user profiles. Important to the extent that unified messaging will be an important hardware feature in several SNPs (9) This is an odd patent, given the mature of the rest of the Bell & Howell portfolio, most of which concerns sheet feeders and collectors. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 40
  41. 41. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS eBay While eBay does not seem to have any patents relevant to user profiles, they do have one application, US20030088566A1: Generic attribute database system, which suggests a way to store multiple items across multiple categories in a database using attribute values and a method of reconciling the attribute values table associated with one category and a values table associated with a second category. Such a design may support social networks whose members be seen through different attribute ―filters.‖ Fujitsu Additional searches for applications assigned to the Fujitsu inventors resulted in a set of 31 published applications. Like the patent below, most of these applications are indirectly relevant to chat rooms and bulletin boards. Relevant applications include US20040049418A1, a ―Polling method that encourages freely opinionated replies and makes for extensive collection of diverse replies.‖ Fujitsu has worked with chat rooms since (at least) 1999, when researchers at the Autonomous Systems Laboratory developed a small, interactive chat room robot. US6205478 System for exchanging user information among users User Profiles—a system for broadcasting updates on information on one terminal to other terminals. Also handles updating user information on a server (Claims 26,34) A potentially important patent that addresses uploading user information and then broadcasting an alert or indicator regarding these changes to other members in the network. May be relevant to chat room and realtime presence services (9) In addition to the Chat room applications, Fujitsu has several applications devoted to advertising including US20020026355A1 Advertising method and awareness server and US20020046190A1 Performance value determination system and method. This latter application relates to measuring the performance of a purchased good over time— something that could be useful in a social networking context where users take the place of a good and user metrics are measured. Note that one Fujitsu patent application, US20010005859A1 Text messaging system and method, enjoys a 1998 priority date. Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 41
  42. 42. FIRSTSEARCH TECHNOLOGY REPORT—SOCIAL NETWORKING PLATFORMS Hewlett Packard In addition to the patent below, Hewlett Packard lends one visualization patent to this report. Most of the associated applications deal with Visualization and graphics, clearly an HP strong point. These applications will be mentioned in the Visualization section. US6684217 System and method for generating a profile from which a publication may be created User Profile—A fairly broad business method patent that asks a user to select a role model and then affiliates the role model with a user profile. At this point, the user may be allowed to buy content associated with the role Model or the user may be exposed to items of interest to the role model. (Claim 6) Right now, fan sites should be aware of this patent.(5) IBM Of the 12 IBM patents that follow, five concern the creation of user profiles, two focus on managing a single user profile on different platforms, two concern tracking and monitoring, two concern profile classification and one may allow users to receive service upgrades based on user profile information. On the application side, it seems that the IBM inventors responsible for the patents below are now concentrating on other technologies, yielding a smaller than expected subset of IBM‘s 528 associated applications. The first patent in this list, US6064666, is associated with no fewer than 11 inventors, two of whom dominate the 66 associated applications. These two— Edith Stern (40 applications) and Barry Willner (39 applications)—have worked together on 82 patents and patent applications which are spread across 29 separate 3-digit patent classes. Neither Mr. Willner nor Ms. Stern appear to adopt a particularly high profile in IBM company literature but they, like Philip Yu (another inventor), may be in the select group of prolific, crossdiscipline inventors who drive or mentor a great deal of productive R&D at companies fortunate enough to employ them. On the application side, Ms. Stern and Mr. Willner are associated with a wide range of applications. Those that may be relevant to social networking include: US20030130862A1 Method and apparatus for establishing a distribution network, and US20030104820A1 Location-specific messaging system, a patent that again points toward the importance of proximity awareness in social devices. US6064666 Issued: 2000 Cross service common user image association User Profiles—Describes a database containing a set of standard user profiles that can be imported into various platforms. Could provide important support for a ―single-profile-multipleplatforms‖ approach to social networking. (10) Priority: 1996 Expires: 2016 Boston Patent Research ∙ www.bprs.net ∙ 617 501 1893 Page 42

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