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My app features functionality to see where your friends are, pretty much like Foursquare and Facebook do, but the scope and reason why are quite different. In fact, it would be check in / and check out and whatever you can do with it. Actually, I'd like not to say too much.

Facebook was awarded US Patent 7,809,805 in 2010 for:

A method of sharing locations of users participating in a social networking service at a geographic location, the method executed by a computer system and comprising:

  • receiving location information and status information from a mobile device of a first user of the social networking service, the location information representing a geographic location of the first user, the status information manually provided by the first user on an input module of the mobile device;

  • associating the location information with the status information of the first user in a database; and

  • sending the status information and the location information of the first user to a second user for display.

Does this mean that I cannot use any Geolocation API for check-in? How painful!

I have an alternative, which would be to check in into bars by visiting the profile of the bar (in the database), and a switch to mark a status as "present" (physically). It's lame, but there seems to be no alternative (?). Would this be allowed then? -> In a certain way this also tells something about being in a physical location, but without using GeoLocation. And could I perhaps use Nearby places API if I make the functionality entirely separate from the check-in functional wise (very lame for the user but it's being with the back against the wall).

Another way I had in mind was to get bar owners to paste qr codes of their own bars on windows or make stamps on beer cards. This is actually too crazy for the short term.

Have you got any advice for me? Many thanks for your quick reply.

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2 Answers 2

It seems that if your users selected the profile of the bar from your app and your system indicated that they were present at said bar then you wouldn't be communicating location information which "comprises street addresses determined by processing a wireless positioning signal detected at a sensor in the mobile device." That language is from Claim 2 which is further limited than the Claim 1 that you posted in your question.

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Dependent claims are more limited versions of independent claims but they do not limit the independent claim itself. In fact, under the doctrine of claim differentiation, the definition of location information found in claim 2 should lead to the conclusion that that term has a relatively broader definition when it is used in claim 1. E.g., if claim 1 says, "a widget" and dependent claim 2 says, "wherein the widget is purple," then it is reasonable to assume that the widget of claim 1 can be purple plus other colors. –  Jay Smith-Hill Oct 30 '12 at 0:50
    
@JaySmith-Hill thank you for the catch there. I corrected the answer. –  ihtkwot Oct 30 '12 at 3:28

I'm not a technical expert by any means, but if I was looking for design arounds to this claim I'd focus on:

associating the location information with the status information of the first user in a database

and instead see if I could get the functionality I needed by, say, associating the location information with the first user and with a time stamp in a database and associating the status information with the first user and with a time stamp in the database. Then if a second user queries the database for users with that location information, you can search for the location information, get the time stamp, then search for status information for that user with temporally similar timestamps.

Again, that just random spit-balling. I have no idea whether or not that is feasible in general or practical for what you intend to do (and also no idea whether or not it would be infringing some other patent claim).

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