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I came across a blog post from dating site OKCupid that explains how they match users. The post has a line saying that the system was patent pending.

What does this mean?

The system works basically by asking you a bunch of questions, and for each question you answer how you want the other person to answer and rate how important it is to you that they answer accordingly. It calculates the total possible score the other person can get assuming they answered each question how you wanted them to answer it, by adding the importance rating you assigned to each question. Every time the other person answers how you wanted they get points based on how important you rated the question. Finally it finds the percent of the total possible points that the other person actually earned.

They then match your percent with the other person's percent by multiplying them and finding the square root (geometric mean)

To recap the system:

  1. Assign a numerical value to each question based on how important it is to you that the other person answers it how you want. Add these numbers to get a total.
  2. Find the percent of the total desired points that the other person actually got based on their answers
  3. Find the geometric mean of your percent and the other person's percent

How is this patentable when it's just math?

What part of this system is proprietary and can't be copied? Suppose I wanted to create a dating app that matches people. Can I not ask the people a bunch of questions, assign numbers to them, then use geometric mean to see how close two people's numbers are? I could not find the actual patent.

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The link explained their system but did not contain the claims of a patent application so it is hard to evaluate the possibility if patenting. A quick search didn’t turn up any granted patent or published application in the U.S. that is assigned to Okqupid as of May 2022.

Many methods use math as part of a patented process. You can’t patent a mathematical formula like the volume of a sphere but using math in a specific way to reach some practical end is often patentable although it is a shifting area of patent law now.

In this same domain eHarmony has multiple patents including - https://patents.google.com/patent/US10146882B1 and https://patents.google.com/patent/US9785703B1/

Match.com has https://patents.google.com/patent/US8051013B2 and https://patents.google.com/patent/US8566327B2

Matching people is a rich area with many different methods with varying attributes and successfulness.

Also there are patents on avoiding scam profiles, managing privacy etc. that these companies and others have been granted.

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  • Good answer, but there is no guarantee an application is assigned to okcupid.
    – Eric S
    May 15 at 13:40
  • True - my point was that my comment did not depend on knowing any specific claim language.
    – George White
    May 15 at 15:07
  • Thank you. I wonder if this method never got patented. I'm still having a hard time understanding what is off limits about applying this method to another matchmaking service May 15 at 18:32
  • There are probably at least dozens of patents in this area that you would want to study if you were thinking about building a product. When and if OkQupid gest a patent you would need to study the allowed claims to see the delineation of what it covers and doesn't cover. Reading patent claims in context to figure this out is not a trivial exercise.
    – George White
    May 16 at 20:40
  • So I think I may have found the patent and the status is "abandoned." I found out OkCupid used to be owned by Rainbow Humor Inc. Searched that and this came up: patents.google.com/patent/US20060106667A1/… but it's abandoned May 17 at 5:17

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