Finding people near you with shared interests, and talking to them, has a very long history in human culture. We’re social animals. We need to find other people close to us to work together with, play games with, and build relationships and families with. Modern online social networks are built on top of those basic human needs.
The technologies we humans use to do these things are ever-changing, but the basic concepts aren’t. Software that promotes new types of social networking is a terrible fit for the patent system, which hands out hundreds of thousands of 20-year monopolies each year on inventions that are supposedly new, but often aren’t. No one should be able to patent an “invention” that simply describes a method of finding like-minded people.
Unfortunately, that seems to be just what happened with a patent we looked at recently. A patent troll called Wireless Discovery LLC sued eight different social and dating apps for patent infringement, claiming that they infringe U.S. Patent No. 9,264,875, which claims “location-based discovery” based on people’s “personal attributes.” Wireless Discovery, which was created just before its patent was granted in 2016, sued eight different online dating apps in April—most of them small apps.
Claiming the “Mobile Social” World
Wireless Discovery lawyers say that a simple combination of basic computing services is enough to infringe their patent. Its claim chart makes it explicit what is required to infringe the ‘875 patent. For its lawsuit against the dating network Zoosk, the claim chart describes how: