With thousands of companies vying to be the next internet success story, protecting new software, algorithms and other proprietary information is always a concern. Companies are constantly fighting to prevent competitors from taking advantage of their innovations, and like most other industries, the best way to get legal protection is by filing for a patent.
Searches are one of the most lucrative and widely used aspects of the internet, as is evidenced by the massive success and ubiquitous nature of Google. On numerous occasions we’vediscussed how searches are becoming increasingly personalized, leading to more targeted and effective marketing campaigns. Capitalizing on this trend is obviously a top priority for internet companies, and Facebook has just established itself as the leader in this race thanks to a patent on a new search algorithm.
According to the description of the patent, the algorithm will be for “ranking search results based on the frequency of clicks on the search results by members of a social network who are within a predetermined degree of separation.” Essentially, this means that the results from the search will be directly affected by how many times people in your immediate social network have clicked on a given link or visited a site.
Facebook has yet to announce any specific plans for using the patent, but searches have been becoming a more prominent aspect of their business model in recent months. One of the most interesting facets of this story is the fact that the patent was filed for nearly six years ago. Back then, few people outside of the online community would have been able to predict the astronomical rise of Facebook; the length of time between the conception of the idea and the fruition of the patent is evidence of how much effort and foresight is required to develop new technologies.
As more and more companies look to carve out a niche for themselves in the ever-expanding online marketplace, these internet-related patents are sure to garner more media attention. Last week, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen made headlines when it was announced that one of his companies, Interval Licensing, would be suing several major companies, including Google, Facebook and Apple, for violation of four separate patents. The fact that most people have never heard of Interval Licensing simply highlights the fact that a profusion of companies have already staked their claim to innovations through patents.