Facebook pulls out a shiney patent on GPS

Facebook PictureThe guys over at Facebook have been granted a patent which could threaten a large number of companies from Social Networking to Satellite Navigation technology.

The patent application, filed in 2007 titled “Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members” comes equipped with an almost PhD thesis level of vagueness.

The patent describes in short, Facebook places service but the ramifications could extend beyond that service – Tom Tom has a friend finding service in some of their higher end GPS units which the patent could potentially be interpreted as infringing despite Facebook’s service becoming available after Tom Tom completed their technology.

Erik Sherman over at Bnet does a good job at analysing the patent. Key points being that despite the most obvious technology used to update the service with location being GPS, the patent does not actually limit to this – there are wireless network based location services out there using this to update the service would fall under the remit of the patent.

It will be interesting to see how the big companies such as Google react to the threat of this patent to their own products that are doing the same service entirely. They might want to bring a challenge against the validity of the claim on the basis of being a general vague building block that no company should be entitled to a patent on as it infringes on innovation. Alternatively they may just opt to negotiate a licensing agreement with Facebook.

US Patent

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