6,175,831 – the number of the beast

I was reading a book about Social Media the other day and stumbled upon some interesting information about a certain U.S. Patent number 6,175,831 entitled “Method and apparatus for constructing a network database and system”. So what I hear you ask? Well it’s a biggy. It could (but unlikely) have huge consequences should it ever be used. The patent description is this:

Effective September 23, 2003, YouthStream Media Networks, Inc., a Delaware corporation (the “Company”), sold its interest in U.S. Patent No. 6,175,831 entitled “Method and apparatus for constructing a network database and system” (the “Six Degrees Patent”) and certain related intellectual property rights, including computer source and object code files, software assets and other digital assets, documentation and rights (the “Technology”), for a cash payment of $700,000. The sales price was determined through an auction process involving arm’s-length qualified purchasers. The Company is not utilizing the Technology in its current business operations.

The Six Degrees Patent was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on January 16, 2001, and provides a software platform for an online service that, among other things, allows users to build relationship networks.

What it’s describing is a Social Network. Who owns the Patent now? It’s LinkedIn … the silent ninja of the Social Networking world. “LinkedIn is a 3-year-old social networking site for grownups”. In a sector dominated by sites like MySpace and Facebook, where teenagers and young adults trade messages on home pages loaded with photos, profiles, blogs, and more… LinkedIn has slipped up silently on the inside. It’s also the most useful (in my opinion). Founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003 by Reid Hoffman and founding team members from Paypal and Socialnet.com – so a force to be reckoned with.

Anyway – This patent has never truly been used. It’s being sat on. Can it be enforced? Who knows! Interesting none-the-less.

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