Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The virtual gift patent

Patent 7,970,657 has been awarded to Facebook, for "giving gifts via a social network and displaying icons representing assets that have been acquired via the social network."

There are 52 claims, but as is the case in many software patents, claim 1 sums up the patent pretty well: (the other claims are details)
1. A method for representing ownership of an asset in a social network environment, the method comprising: receiving a request from a first user of the social network environment to purchase the asset for a second user; recording information about a purchase of the asset from a vendor; associating, by a server for the social networking environment, the purchased asset with a profile of the second user; sending for display to a viewing user an association between the purchased asset and the second user on a feed display page; sending for display to the viewing user, in connection with the association between the purchased asset and the second user, information indicating that a third user, with whom the viewing user has established a connection in the social network, owns the asset, and information including a name of the first user who gave the asset to the second user, on the feed display page.
Let me put this in a different context: If you've played online multiplayer roleplaying games, you may have used the concept where you can "gift" or "give" an item to someone else, typically a member of your party. In these games, there's usually a "log" of messages between your party, which would indicate that player "A" gave player "B" a "Sword of +1 damage".

That's essentially what this patent describes, except patent "657" is within the specific context of a "social network".

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