Does Facebook Own Patent on Check-Ins?

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facebook_small.jpgADOTAS – Facebook has a thing for collecting patents — shortly after Friendster was sold to Malaysian payment company MOL, Facebook paid $40 million for seven of the first breakout social network’s patents and 11 applications. That’s more than MOL paid for Friendster.

Now Facebook has been granted a patent regarding its new location-based tool Places that may spell trouble for competitors in the mobile social space. Patent No. 7,809,805, “Systems and methods for automatically locating web-based social network members,” broadly covers the method for determining user location based on status update and GPS identification.

Whoa — that sounds like a check-in. Does this mean Facebook owns thee patent for check-ins? What are the implications for Foursquare, Gowalla and other location-based mobile networks?

TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld guesses that Facebook will use the patent as an ace in the hole in licensing negotiations, though Erik Sherman, who gives a detailed analysis of the patent at Bnet, suggests that Facebook will use the patent to force mobile social networks to the table.

“Unless another company can successfully challenge it, Facebook’s corporate value just took a big jump,” he writes, “and… a number of other companies had better quickly consider licensing deals.”

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