Facebook Wins Another News Feed Patent

Facebook has won a patent for creating a personalized feed of stories for its users, giving the company its seventh this year. It’s the second news feed related patent the company has been awarded so far. You can see the approved patent filing here.

The patent covers how Facebook presents status updates with multiple friends involved (see the drawing excerpted from the patent above). So for example, it might cover how Facebook shows in a news feed story that a friend attended a concert with a few other friends or added a photo to another friend’s profile.

When Facebook originally filed for the patent in the fall of 2006, it was just a month before the company launched its news feed. It argued at the time that as more and more users joined the social network, the amount of information it would produce would become overwhelming. So the company needed a way to consolidate and organize the most important items for each person, especially if it involved several of their friends.

Facebook also won a second patent this week for how it confirms whether a user is part of a group, workplace or school.

The company began collecting patents earlier this year, more than four years after it started applying for them. It also paid about $40 million to acquire very early social networking patents originally given to Friendster.

Like Google, Facebook seems to acquire patents defensively, instead of using them to pressure other companies to desist or pay license fees. The company hasn’t publicly instigated any patent disputes yet, unlike more famously litigious Silicon Valley companies such as Apple. Founder Mark Zuckerberg alluded to this strategy in an interview last month with TechCrunch, when the blog asked him about its recently awarded patent on location-enabled status updates.

While he wouldn’t comment on Facebook’s approach to IP rights directly, he did say:

Zuckerberg: I mean, you can see what we’ve used patents for in the past.
Jason Kincaid, TechCrunch blogger: I can’t remember a time you’ve used…
Zuckerberg: Exactly.
Kincaid: …it offensively.

When Facebook eventually comes to the public markets for an initial public offering, it will want to ensure that other companies can’t make intellectual property claims and sue it for licensing revenues.

That said, it is a different story when it comes to trademarks. Facebook has been quite active in pressuring developers or marketers from using the company font or the words “Face” or “Book” too egregiously.