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How did Linkedin, Twitter, Airbnb and Amazon patent their software apps?

Here's the truth: most software apps grasp at any excuse to file a patent. Whether the patent actually protects the app isn't relevant. In this transient cyberworld, "deterrence", "marketing" and "perceived value" is much more important that "protection".

App Patents

Linkedin's patent doesn't cover its system. It merely protects Linkedin's specific method of measuring the accuracy of endorsements ‐ something that few users care about. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Software patents are primarily filed for marketing and deterrence purposes. Don't expect the patent to "protect" the new software app. Airbnb is a great case‐in‐point. It took a flyer with a very broad patent. Six years on, Airbnb's patent application is still "pending"; likely invalid. Not a problem! It remains 100% effective as a deterrent. Amazon did patent its 1‐click ordering method in the US, but waved the white flag, abandoning the patent application everywhere else ‐ it just wasn't inherently patentable. But, were you assuming that patent protection was the goal? This Amazon patent was valued and formed the basis for a sale and leaseback financing arrangement. In a surprising twist, Amazon's patent was primarily used to provide cheap financing to Amazon. Think that's odd? Then you'll be knocked over with Facebook's patent strategy. The odd‐one‐out is Twitter: Twitter's patent actually seems to protect a feature of its app ‐ supplying tweets to followers in a format selected by the follower. Not a big feature, but a feature nonetheless.

Linkedin's Patent

Linkedin started in 2002 and now boasts 590 million users and $5.3 billion in revenue.

Linkedin filed its first patent in September 2005. Expecting something BIG? Well, here's the BIG SURPRISE: Linkedin's patent covered this method of using social network data to determine the accuracy of endorsements:

  1. store endorsements for a person,
  2. in response to a search for the person, display: the person's profile; the endorsements; the relationship between person and endorsers; and the relationship between searcher and endorser,
  3. measure accuracy of the endorsements using social networking analysis,
  4. determine the person's rating based on accuracy of endorsements, and
  5. display the person's rating.

(US8010460)

App Patents

Airbnb's Patent

Airbnb started in 2008 without any patents. But, after 5 years of continuous development, Airbnb finally thought it had something patentable ‐ this:

  1. receive a query for accommodation from a guest, including geographical location and date range;
  2. identify available accommodation within the geographical location;
  3. determine the probability of booking for each accommodation option;
  4. rank accommodation options according to probability of booking; and
  5. provide the ranked accommodation options to the guest.

Six years on, Airbnb's patent is still "Patent Pending" in the US.

(US2014278591)

App Patents

Amazon's Patent

Amazon's path to becoming a $230 billion revenue e‐commerce Leviathan was paved in 1997 by this patented 1‐click ordering method:

  1. display product information;
  2. send product order with identifier of purchaser via a single action;
  3. retrieve stored information regarding the purchaser;
  4. generate an order; and
  5. fulfil the order without using a shopping cart ordering model.

Simply substituting the shopping cart with a "single click" gave Amazon the tailwind necessary to outsprint its competitors.

Although this patent was granted in the US, Amazon faced resistance in Europe, and ultimately gave up fighting with the European Patent Office. But, then Amazon took this patent to the next level: assigning it to Deutsche Bank as part of a structured finance arrangement to secure a very low interest loan. We can only wonder what they valued it at.

(US5960411)

App Patents

Twitter's Patent

TWITTER started in March 2006, but waited more than a year to file its first patent. Unlike most other social networks, Twitter's foundational patent actually covers its service, i.e.:

  1. receive from a follower's device: an endpoint for receipt of messages; and a request to follow a sender;
  2. designate the follower as a follower of the sender;
  3. receive a message from the sender's device together with the sender's identification;
  4. identify followers of the sender, together with followers' endpoint and message format rules;
  5. translate the message to comply with the message format rule for each user; and
  6. broadcast the translated message to each endpoint.

(US8401009)

App Patents

See more examples – Facebook, Uber, Guitar Hero, Pinterest

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