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Monday, July 17, 2006

Entry barriers strategies in social networking

First, Friendster patented last week its database-centric social networking technology at the US Patent Office. What is the strategy behind this move? I don´t know, but I guess such a step may temper potential social networking new entrants´ enthusiasm.

Second, a European project, Fleck, has also been in the process of patenting its technology recetly.´s motto is "Web Democracy".

Third, a dating website, Engage, just raised 5m$ in a first financing round. It´s business model is a mix of social networking and dating. Are investors buying diversified Web 2.0 projects, or will Engage bring in disruptive synergies in the dating business?

I suggest that all IT Addicts start thinking right here, through commenting, about the nuts and bolds of patenting "soft" technologies. Are social networking technologies really innovative? What´s the underlying strategy of companies willing to legally protect their activities?


  • I am not a law expert but the way patenting works in the US is that you can put a patent on virtually anything without having to demonstrate the originality and anteriority of your "product". But, anyone that thinks your patent should not exist (for example, the owner of an anterior technology) can come and challenge you. You then have to prove that you have the right to hold the patent.
    So, putting a US patent isn't a big deal and, sometimes, doesn't mean anything...

    In Europe, it's the other round. You first prove you have the right to put a patent of your product and then you can be sure you have it for good.

    (I might be wrong; it would be great if a law student could back or correct my comment...)

    By Blogger Jedi, at 7/19/2006 02:43:00 PM  

  • ...and kids, this is why software patents are a really bad idea, ok?

    If you need to go patenting business processes and such, you're on a slippery slope. As every management (Hi, Mintzberg!) and entreprenurship (Hi, Kawasaki!) expert says, if your business advantage is easily copied (the reason for patenting it), it's not really an advantage.

    Think how destructive it would have been to IT business if some corporation (like Apple) would've went and patented GUI?

    By Blogger Kari, at 7/20/2006 11:12:00 AM  

  • Thanks for your input Jedi. I didn´t know this IP philosophical difference between Europe and the US.

    Kari, I actually totally agree with you. For 2 obvious reasons:

    1) patenting raises interest of the competition and information on the actual patented innovation, which is rather paradoxical;

    2) History provides us with countless examples of companies that revolutioned their industries without inventing anything, just gaining a competitive advantage: MS Dos and Windows 3.0 were crappy products when compared to BeOS, IBM OS/2 or Mac OS, but Bill Gates knew how to make people massively adopt Microsoft´s software: OEM.
    Same with Dell (operations competitive advantage), Starbucks (branding), etc. These guys haven´t patented anything, they´re just smarter and faster than the competition. In other words, they know how to turn an invention (something that borns in a researcher´s mind) into an innovation (something customers would feel like dying rather than not buying it).

    I see Kari, that we´re on the same wavelength.

    By the way, I´ve planned to buy Guy Kawasaki´s last book: "The State of the Art", upon advice from my friend Dave Notik on his blog ( Have you read it already? What´s your viewpoint about Kawasaki?

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 7/20/2006 05:48:00 PM  

  • Hmm... I think you mean "The Art of the Start"? I haven't read the book (yet), but I think I talked enough about him to couple of my friends, because they have two books from him now... =)
    Kawasaki seems to know how to push stuff, that's for sure. He has some very good ideas and it seems like he really wants to share them. I'm too a firm believer in open, sharing attitude of ideas.
    Some believe he was one of those who made Macintosh great, some don't.

    By Blogger Kari, at 7/21/2006 07:53:00 AM  

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