Amazon Patents Social Networking System, Winks at Facebook

17 Jun

social networks clutter imageThe United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Amazon a patent for a “Social Networking System.” Amazingly enough, the description of the patent sounds, well, pretty much like any social network we’ve seen over the years, including Facebook.

The description of the patent is as follows:

“A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations. The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.”

Replacing the word “system” in the paragraph above with “Facebook” reveals, once again, how flawed the U.S. patent system is. This patent was invented by Brian Robertson and Warren Adams — the same two guys who founded social networking service PlanetAll, which Amazon acquired in 1998. Alas, not seeing potential in the service, Amazon shut it down in 2000, but decided to revive it by filing a patent application in May 2008.

Now, let’s look at some of the other social networking-related patents. Four years ago, Friendster patented — you guessed it — “social networking.” It was described as a “system, method, and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks.”

Friendster was awarded several more patents for certain aspects of social networking over the years, Facebook patented the newsfeed three months ago, and we’ve seen many other patents that supposedly cover the fundamentals of social networking over the years.

So, after all this, who owns the patent for the social network? You tell us, cause we have no idea.

[via TechFlash]

image courtesy of iStockphoto, drflet

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Tags: amazon, facebook, patent, social networking