Sunday, June 24, 2012

Facebook US Patent 8,204,952 as post-modern literature.

Last week USPTO issued US Patent 8,204,952 to Facebook, the patent covering "Digital file distribution in a social network system." The core idea behind the patent is simple enough: user profile page contains a link to a digital file that can be retrieved by another user.

To make things interesting, Facebook's patent lawyers in cooperation with the USPTO wrote Claim 1 as a piece of post-modern literature, where time and space are intermingled in a highly idiosyncratic manner. In the patent claim, the timing of the steps necessary to implement the method of the invention has very little to do with the order of appearance in the claim.

For example, setting up user and privacy rights to access the profile page and the digital file are mentioned last (steps 10 and 13 out of 13), despite the fact that the setup has to happen before any content distribution can take place (see Table below).

If IKEA wrote their furniture assembly instructions in this manner, they'd be long out of business.

The table below has three columns:
1. The logical order in which the steps of the method need to be implemented.
2. The order of appearance in Claim 1.
3. A brief description of each step.

Logical order Order of appearance Description of the step
of the method in Claim1
1 13 set up rights for PPt2 re other users
2 10 set up rights for PPt1 re other users
3 3 ID enables retrieval of P.P.
4 2 PPt1 associated w/user 1
5 1 storing ID for PPt1
6 6 insert ID into PPt2
7 4 receiving request from Tool for PPt2
8 14 decide on rights for PPt2
9 5 sending PPt2
10 8 insert ID into request
11 7 receive request from Tool for PPt1
12 9 decide on rights for PPt1
13 11 retrieve PPt1 from source by device
14 12 decide on rights for PPt2

The good news is our system model works really well for analyzing patents, even the ones that are intentionally obfuscated.

tags: patents, system, media, facebook, distribution

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