Facebook is Selectively Acquiring Patents

Envision IP analyzed Facebook’s recent patent acquisitions to understand possible product and service offerings the company may be working on.

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Maulin V. Shah

September 2, 2014

Facebook made headlines in 2012, not only for its widely anticipated IPO, but also for its large scale patent acquisitions from IBM and Microsoft. Prior to its IPO, Facebook purchased 750 patents from IBM, and another 650 patents (originally owned by AOL) from Microsoft.

Envision IP analyzed Facebook’s current US patent portfolio to identify recent patent acquisitions the company has made.  Taking a look at patent acquisitions recorded at the USPTO in 2013 and 2014, Facebook acquired 54 patents from Fujifilm Corporation, 22 patents from AT&T, and 10 patents from Vega Vista, Inc.

facebook_patent_acquisitions_2013_and_2014

The Fujifilm patents relate to image and video data compression, server technology for image playback and transfer, and image editing and presentation systems.  A few interesting patents relate to printing images via a peer-to-peer network (US 7,617,279), and a point-of-sale terminal for printing images (US 7,484,661).

The AT&T patents relate to technologies for logging, aggregating and analyzing communications related data (for example, US 7,454,470), determining relationships within a social network (for example, US 8,429,119) and personalized content delivery (for example, US 8,341,018).

The Vega Vista patents relate to display and interface technologies for hand-held devices that incorporate inertial sensors (for example, US 7,647,175), head and motion tracking technologies (for example, US 6,288,704), and virtual displays (for example, US 6,084,556).

In addition to the above, Facebook made the following acquisitions during 2013-2014 as well:

-6 patents related to mobile check-in from inventor Neeraj Jhanji (Envision IP analyzed these patents in April 2012)
-3 patents related to location and navigation technologies from Smartebook.com Co. Ltd.
-3 patents related to speech translation from Mobile Technologies LLC
-1 patent related to facial recognition from Fawkes Acquisition Corporation / Face.com, Inc.
-1 patent related to search engines from Truveo, Inc.

The broad spectrum of technologies obtained by Facebook via these acquisitions may shed light on the company’s future offerings, which could possibly range from digital printing services to interactive wearable devices.

On another note, Envision IP identified 1,647 US patents currently assigned to Facebook. Initially, this figure indicates that the vast majority of patents owned by Facebook have been the result of acquisitions, instead of resulting from Facebook’s own research and development efforts.

However, Facebook currently owns 1,182 published, pending US patent applications that it originally filed.  Facebook has seen tremendous growth in its own patent application filings, from a mere 69 filings in 2009, to 649 filings in 2012. The rate of filings has been impressive, with a 158% increase in year-over-year filings from 2010 to 2011, and a 106% increase from 2011 to 2012.

facebook_patent_application_filings_2009_to_2012

Thus, while its current portfolio of issued patents has resulted primarily from third-party acquisitions, we expect the portfolio to contain an increasing number of original Facebook patents in the coming years as the company’s patent applications begin to issue.

*Patent applications typically publish 18 months after their priority date, thus we have not analyzed the 2013-2014 patent application data.