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FACEBOOK started in February 2004, and is now valued at $85 billion.
Today, Facebook holds more than 7,500 patents and 360 Design Registrations. However, only 23 of the patents date back to 2004. And, of this handful of patents, the first was bought by Facebook in 2010.
The surprising truth is that Facebook had no patents when it started - not even a Patent Pending Number! Anyone could have "copied" Facebook exactly and without fear, provided they called it something else.
So, why did Facebook acquire a bucket-load of patents in 2010?
Facebook was listed on the Stock Exchange in 2012. To maximise its "value", Facebook had to convince investors that "barriers to entry" blocked competitors' paths.
For this, Facebook simply pointed to its patent bucket. No-one reads patents.
Investors were quickly convinced; the perceived "risk" evaporated; and the stock price went up!
In 2009, WAZE tried to patent:
1. determining an optimal route from A to B, and
2. using real-time traffic information continually to re-determine the optimal route while traveling along it.
… not very different to detouring into back roads when faced with a traffic jam.
And, WAZE was in no rush to get this patent granted - keeping it "Patent Pending" for 6 years! Basically, it had much more "deterrence value" as a "pending patent" than "enforcement value" as a "granted patent".
In 2014, the patent was bought by: …
And, within a year of acquiring the pending patent, Google abandoned it.
WAZE clearly had no intention of using this patent for protection. Ostensibly, the pending patent was a "deterrent"; more importantly, the pending patent encouraged investments; but principally, the pending patent triggered a pay-day EXIT!
The GUITAR HERO game is "comprehensively covered" by: a granted Patent; Design Registrations for its instruments; and Trademarks for its branding.
You may expect the patent to protect: a game in which you strum‐along to your favourite ditties; the guitar buttons; or the combination of an instrument and a game. The crux is that throughout the 4‐year "Patent Pending" period, competitors were uncertain what they couldn't "copy".
Ultimately, GUITAR HERO's patent crystallised around this method …
This is exceptionally broad! It applies to drums, karaoke, piano … you name it. But, it falls fantastically short of covering the basic PlayStation game! The dithering induced by the Pending Patent was a lot more useful.
What stops you from competing with INSTAGRAM? Surprisingly little …
The Instagram name and icons are protected by Trademarks.
All Instagram screen layouts and icons are also Design Registered.
And, the Instagram patent? Well, this covers …
Software that blurs an image. Instagram's curious single patent covers a system including:
... Exceptionally underwhelming!
But, this irrelevant little patent remained "Patent Pending" for 3 years, giving Instagram "room to grow" and root itself in the market.
SHAZAM holds a bouquet of trademarks, designs and patents. So, how did SoundHound survive a dance-off with this Big-Dog Travolta?
Well, Soundhound ensured that its name and icons weren't "similar" to Shazam's Trademarks or icon Design Registrations.
But, most importantly …
Whereas Shazam's patents cover:
Soundhound performs a basic matching search across multiple recordings of each song.
Basically SoundHound doddled through Shazam's "IP minefield". But, don't underestimate the massive deterrence effect that SoundHound and Shazam patents continue to exert on other "rats and mice", and their potential investors.
After a record 9 years of effectively deterring competitors with "Patent Pending" stamps, Uber was finally granted a patent in 2018!
According to Uber's website "How Uber Works", a rider hails a cab in 5 easy steps:
Step 1: A rider opens the App
Step 2: The rider is matched with a driver
Step 3: The driver picks up the rider
Step 4: The driver takes the rider to the destination
Step 5: The driver and rider leave ratings and reviews
But, Uber's foundational patent covers a method of hailing a ride in 11 steps …
To infringe this Uber patent your method would need to include ALL eleven steps. Remove one, and you're free to use your Ride Hailing App.
Our top tip: Don't place the transport request button on the same page as the map.
Another clear case of a "patent pending" bark being worse than the patent bite.
Uber's patent for hailing a cab in 11-steps, did not prevent LYFT from developing a cunning little tweak - a tweak so cunning it was considered sufficiently inventive to justify its own patent.
Lyft patented …
A system that:
Having its own patent doesn't "shield" Lyft from Uber's patent - Lyft still needs to ensure it doesn't apply all Uber's 11-steps. But, this Lyft patent should prevent your Uber cab from picking up strangers.
… Great "patent currency" for bartering with Uber.
PINTEREST launched in March 2010. Initially, Pinterest had only the general concept of an "image board", which wasn't inherently patentable.
Three and a half years later, Pinterest filed its first patent. What super-technology took 3 long years to develop, and remained "Patent Pending" for 4 years?
Doesn't Google Images to the same? So much for protection!
Pinterest also Trademark registered the word "PIN". Now, that's a nice one! … am torn between peggin' and staplin' pictures to my Peggin'terest / Stapplin'terest board.
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