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To follow up on Stan Wasserman's post about the NYTimes article, I've pulled
up the patent title and abstract referenced by the article.
My original fear was that someone managed to patent published social network
analysis algorithms or indices. Although this isn't the case, I still find
it somewhat troubling - from the core claims as I understand them, the
patent is for (a) a database of emails/communication, and (b) a method of
making connections among database entities with a geodesic distance of 2+.
Patents generally are not issued in cases where the technology is not
replicable, are easily reverse engineered, based on technology known to the
public, or are obvious /general knowledge. Would it be worthwhile for INSNA
to send a letter to the US Patent Office offering expertise in what is "not
obvious" regarding network science? "Obviousness" is apparently one of the
trickiest issues that patent examiners face.
Here's a good web primer for the subject of patent requirements:
Title: Method and apparatus for constructing a networking database and
A networking database containing a plurality of records for different
individuals in which individuals are connected to one another in the
database by defined relationships. Each individual has the opportunity to
define the relationship which may be confirmed or denied. E-mail messaging
and interactive communication between individuals and a database service
provider provide a method of constructing the database. The method
includes having a registered individual identify further individuals and
define therewith a relationship. The further individuals then, in turn,
establish their own defined relationships with still other individuals.
The defined relationships are mutually defined.
Link to online patent:
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