Foudner/CEO Jonathan Vanasco was featured on the DataPortability Podcast #5
You can hear the podcast in its entirety here:
Jonathan offers some follow-up clarifications here:
In reference to our already-established use of “OpenSN (Open Social Network)” for open Social Network Portability protocols , we are planning to formally ask Google to both cease use of the name “Open Social” for their multi-network widget/protocols platform, and end current attempts to trademark it. While our products are not functionally identical, they are obviously similar in design and nature; Google’s choice of naming their product has created an unfortunate confusion between our competing technologies.
FindMeOn has been using the name OpenSN (Open Social Network) since October 2006 to brand goods & services on the internet relating to Social Network Portability, and enjoys common-law trademark rights and protections. Given the obvious similarities in both names and products, we believe that the name of Google’s product is “confusingly similar” to our already established brand name.
FindMeOn.com and the OpenSN protocols have helped users link , manage and track their online identities & relationships in a secure and open manner. The firm’s pioneering and patent-pending technologies in Identity Management, Social Network Portability, and Online Advertising Intelligence have been increasingly used as the model for derivative works. In August 2006 FindMeOn launched as the first platform designed to syndicate online identities, profile information and content stream notifications — essentially a giant switchboard that connected user accounts across the internet. In October 2006 FindMeOn unveiled a relationship indexer which tracks online inter-personal relations (allowing users to see their true n-degrees of separation across networks), and a contact importing / management service which standardizes a user’s online contacts across different networks. On October 11th 2006 FindMeOn.org unveiled OpenSN – the Open Social Network standard for profile serialization and exchange. In January of 2007, FindMeOn filed for US Patent protections to cover public consumer tools, backend server technologies, and a next-generation customized content system that offers super-targeted advertising through anonymized multi-size consumer profiling.
FindMeOn Founder & CEO Jonathan Vanasco has authored an extensive document detailing the company’s Intellectual Property claims, and newly competing technologies that significantly and substantially overlap with claims in FindMeOn’s pending patents.
Intellectual Property Claims
As one-of the earliest, if not the first, entity dedicated to Social Network Portability, FindMeOn.com pioneered many of the systems, methods, and techniques now common to online identity indexing, standardizing, searching and porting. Many of the methods first present in FindMeOn.com’s production systems since August 2006 and covered by claims in USPTO Patent Applications dated January 2007, have began to appear in directly competitive products recently designed by Venture Backed and Publicly Traded companies.
Jonathan details FindMeOn’s own technologies, competitive technologies that overlap with claims in FindMeOn patent filings, and provides extensive footnotes & external references that prove a clear timeline of priority that is decidedly in FindMeOn’s favor.
Possible Improprieties by Competitors
Jonathan details possible improprieties by FindMeOn competitors; Example: Google.com
When LiveJournal Founder Brad Fitzpatrick released his “Social Network Manifesto” in August 2007, FindMeOn reached out to Mr. Fitzpatrick regarding commonalities and overlaps between his new design and existing systems which FindMeOn both had in production for 1 year, and had filed for USPTO Patent Protections on several months earlier.
â€¢ Mr. Fitzpatrick never responded to FindMeOn’s outreach
â€¢ Mr. Fitzpatrick soon became a member of the Google group responsible for their OpenSocial initiative
â€¢ Public Comments from FindMeOn to Mr. Fitzpatrick suggesting similarities between the two systems were deleted from public view on the LiveJournal System, and Google/Fitzpatrick products became more similar to FindMeOn offerings. A video & screencaptures of the disappearing comment are provided, along with a textual reprint and links to relevant LiveJournal pages and Search-Engine caches.
* UPDATE * – 2008.03.19
Google/Livejournal’s Brad Fitzpatrick and FindMeOn CEO Jonathan Vanasco were finally able to talk.
Mr. Fitzpatrick assured us that any failed responses to communicate were unintentional due to an overload of correspondence, and that the disappearing comment was due to an automated moderation system.
Due to increasing market activity, and the proliferation of competitive products that overlap with claims in FindMeOn’s pending Patents, FindMeOn is pursuing an aggressive intellectual property strategy with regards to the licensing and litigation of expected Patent Protections. FindMeOn hopes to utilize its impressive portfolio of technologies, patent applications and experience on behalf of startups everywhere that have been ‘muscled out’ by larger firms.
The company also is eager to resume development of its consumer internet and institutional applications that service the non-profit and progressive sectors, and bring added value to online networks and advertisers everywhere.
The posting in its entirety is accessible via: http://www.destructuring.net/archives/2008/01/the_huge_postin.html
For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caroline @ CNET contacted me to confirm a story she heard through common friends of legal issues we’ve been analyzing over @ FindMeOn in regards to Google’s OpenSocial initiative.
Yes, it’s true. FindMeOn really doesn’t like the fact that Google named their product so similarly to ours, and we would prefer if they changed it.
You can read the official press release shortly on findmeon’s official blog.:
Just to personally clarify some points on this matter that people have asked me over the past few days.
Q. Are you really serious about this?
A. Yes. This is a serious and legitimate trademark issue, that has already affected our business in a negative manner.
Q. What exactly is OpenSN? I thought your company is FindMeOn.
A. OpenSN (Open Social Network) is a set of standards & software that FindMeOn maintains & distributes to enable Social Network Portability; we’ve been distributing products under this name to the general public, and actively advocating them at Technology Conferences since October 2006. findmeon.org / opensn.org have operated as a repository of the OpenSN specification , and database code for people to implement.
Once upon a time… not too long ago… Social Networks were walled gardens and all very different. OpenSN was designed to standardize social network , web application , blog , dating , etc. profiles into a common format. Existing standards like foaf and hCard were unsuitable to our needs – they were concerned with ‘contact’ style information and did not support common profile fields (interests, work histories, etc). We mapped out several hundred Social Network profiles, figured out the base commonalities, and created OpenSN to address the overlap and uniqueness of them all. Most SocialNetwork / Profile websites and Open Source projects can translate their entire profile data into the OpenSN format – which can then be serialized to disk or transferred to another SocialNetwork/Application — which can use a reverse mapping of their fields to access the data in their native format. Simplest put- OpenSN was designed to be a babelfish for Social Network profiles.
Q. I thought trademark registration was necessary for protection.
A. Unlike Patents which are ‘awarded’, Trademarks can be formally registered — but that is not necessary for protection under US law. You can yahoo the “Lanham Act” for more information on US Trademark law – it still pretty-much stands as the definitive bible for trademark law. Simple usage of a term in interstate commerce grants common-law trademark status and rights – and that why there is a difference between a “registered” trademark (circle with an R) and a general trademark (superscript TM).
Q. Are you really worried about confusion between the products?
A. Yes: we have already been experiencing it, and it has been to the detriment of the firm. Since the release of OpenSN, people have continually confused OpenSN with OpenSocial. At NYC technology events, people often say “Oh, thats the Google thing, right?!” When speaking with investors and clients, we often hear “OpenSN, is that the Google product? Are you the guys they bought?” The names of the two products are confusingly similar, and have been the cause of constant confusion. Being a startup is hard enough; being a startup where people constantly confuse your product with a new one from a billion dollar competitor is even harder.
Imagine this conversation, I have it nearly every day:
Random: What does FindMeOn do?
FMO: We created the first technology to port and sync identity information across the internet through Widgets and APIs, and foster social network portability through open standards we call “OpenSN – Open Social Network”
Random: Oh cool! Google just bought you, right?
FMO: No. That’s Google’s OpenSocial. It’s like Widgets & APIs. Too.
Random: They kinda sound the same.
FMO: Yeah… I know… We’ve been using our name for about a year before them. Its becoming an issue.
Random: I’m not surprised.
Q. The article mentions foreign use and other companies using similar terms. Doesn’t that diminish your rights?
A. No. Foreign and ‘other’ use are largely irrelevant to US Trademark law. US Trademark law generally serves protect fair business practices within a given arena. That being said, under US Trademark law, even national use of identical or similar marks are generally irrelevant when names are in a different realm of business. For example: there is a car company and modeling agency both called Ford – they both operate in different arenas of business, and are not likely to be confused with each other. We believe that “OpenSocial” is confusingly similar to “OpenSN” – and it is not only in our industry (internet goods and services) but for a very similar product. If you created a search engine today, would you call it “GooglySearch” or “Gaggle”?. We think Google could have chosen many other names, and wish they had.
On a side-note: unless you’re a mega-corp or specifically targeting a foreign market, you generally don’t want to bother with overseas patent or trademark protection – you’re rarely going to have the ability to litigate/enforce your rights. You’re much better off taking the money you would have spent on securing those rights and investing them into your company. Even better: how about making a charitable deduction to a worthwhile non-profit, so you can help make a difference in the world. Can I suggest the Patrick O’Brien Foundation?
Q. Are you just going after the big tech player?
A. Not at all.
Ms. McCarthy stated in her article- “If the story sounds familiar, that’s because it is: many an obscure start-up has gone after a big tech player over some technology or idea that it sees as a bit too familiar.” Unfortunately she seems to forget about another all-to familiar story: when a big tech player decides to quickly enter a space and develop its own systems to directly compete with smaller firms.
Until recently, it was common for large tech companies to acquire startups for users or technology. Since around 2004, acquisition and funding for consumer internet ventures have been based solely on userbase numbers ; i.e.: attention/audience is purchased, not innovation. That’s why acquisition prices and market valuation are now almost only spoken of in terms of “Cost-Per-User”.
Recent giant-staff upgrades from IPO cash & profitability , and rapid-development frameworks have made it cheaper & easier for large corporations to embrace a ‘Build Your Own’ approach to technology. Tech giants are increasingly choosing this route using internal incubation services to compete with startups in certain sectors: Yahoo has Brickhouse, Google has Labs, recently Facebook has been alleged to make ‘official’ apps based on 3rd party platform development.
Q. The article mentioned Patent Holding Groups – what does that have to do with this trademark issue ?
A. Absolutely nothing. Because of recent market activity, FindMeOn is pursuing an aggressive Intellectual Property strategy – which includes both ensuring our trademark rights AND strategically managing our Patent portfolio. The OpenSN system and protocols are fully open , and irrelevant to our patent strategy. We’re currently exploring options to continue as a firm on our current path, or suspend operations to focus on IP licensing & market consulting – which is why we’re talking to these groups.
Q. Did you file a lawsuit against Google? Are you planning to?
MarketingVox incorrectly reported that FindMeOn filed a lawsuit. That is simply not true.
No lawsuit has been filed, and there is no intent to litigate. We hope to work this out amicably, and have turned to nationally recognized Intellectual Property experts for consultation on these legal matters, and to develop & manage or intellectual property strategies. Legal matters like these are far different than lawsuit, and the American court system is overburdened already.
The “Pew Internet & American Life Project” has released a report Digital Footprints: Online identity management and search in the age of transparency
Facts to ponder:
Internet users are becoming more aware of their digital footprint; 47% have searched for information about themselves online, up from just 22% five years ago.
Fully 60% of internet users say they are not worried about how much information is available about them online. Similarly, the majority of online adults (61%) do not feel compelled to limit the amount of information that can be found about them online.
Although the number of internet users who worry about their online information is
similar in size to the segment that takes steps to limit access to personal data, the two
groups do not neatly overlap. For many internet users, concerns about online personal
information do not translate into action. Among internet users who worry about their
personal information, just over half (54%) say they take steps to limit the amount of
personal information that is available about them.
It’s a great paper to read though, and serves as a great external validation to a lot of things we’re been talking about with FindMeOn for the past few years.
In the spirit of the Holiday Season – we have decided to open up a bunch of our research, presentations and select FindMeOn documents, as part of a new repository called Identity Research.
Identity Research is a way of giving the general public a ‘behind the scenes’ look at some of the innovations our team has made over the past few years. You can visit it here:
Here’s what you can find on Identity Research:
- Lots of Information on Technology, Identity Theory, Behavioral Psychology and everyone’s favorite application of online data: Advertising and Consumer Marketing
- A new series called “Social Mapping” where we analyze the Social Networks and “The Social Graph”.
- A collection of Public Presentations from 2006 and 2007 that look-a-whole-lot-like what some multi-million and multi-billion dollar firms have recently started building.
- Research on the History of SNS systems- including an Open Source project from 1996 that could likely invalidate the hotly contested Friendster/SixDegrees patents as Prior Art.
Why start Identity Research?
When FindMeOn launched in August of 2006, the internet was a different place.
Our critics and alleged experts would say silly stuff like:
- Niche networks aren’t a real viability, the large networks are the only thing that matters!
- The walls on large Social Networks will never come down!
- Users don’t care about online privacy, or realms of friendship!
- There is no advertising/marketing value in Social Media – it has some of the worst advertising performance online!
In just-over-a-year, things have drastically changed:
- Niche networks are hotter than ever.
They’re growing at an explosive rate as more people connect online, the barriers to operating a social network are drastically lowering, and people yearn for smaller communities of like-minded people.
- The walls of Social Networks aren’t falling, they’ve fallen.
After we released the OpenSN collection of Open Social Networking protocols, Facebook launched their API, and Google followed with their OpenSocial initiative.
Users have demanded portability, networks don’t have a choice.
- Users explicitly care about online privacy and friendship realms. A lot.
Stories of people losing their job because of Facebook, MySpace and Blog activity have become commonplace, and serve as a warning.
The public is starting to become conscious of how their online and offline worlds interact, and starting to think before they click.
- The marketing potential of Social Media is no longer being questioned, it is being realized.
Facebook’s social profiling is one of the best Social Network advertising systems, commanding CPMs on par with other publishers;
MySpace’s new HyperTargeting system has nearly doubled their advertising performance;
Major brands are turning to whitelabel service providers to foster brand awareness.
It has been simply amazing to watch the market fall into place like this – each of our predictions has proven true, and FindMeOn’s core technologies and value-propositions have been fully validated.
As a small startup we have been constantly overshadowed by high profile companies and pundits that re-implemented or clone our services/technologies with PR blitzes larger than our operating budget. Identity Research is a way to start sharing select developments with the general public, and prove how far ahead of the pack we still are. While efforts on the consumer side have been limited by PR and increasing competition, our focus has been on our institutional products and Intellectual Property portfolio — both of which are stronger than ever.
When you have a moment, I personally invite you to read up on Identity Research and learn more about the intersection of online networking, consumer marketing, and user privacy.
If you have any questions, please be in touch.
From the entire team @ FindMeOn , we hope you have a happy holiday season and a healthy new year.
No emoticons can express our gratitude for your friendship and support over the years.
FindWeOn uses findmeon technology to bring groups together across the internets – no matter where they are.
How? FWO creates ‘virtual social networks’, giving users the same privacy controls and information sharing as findmeon network integration.
We’ve been exploring group applications of FMO Technology since we first launched ; the name findWEon just jumped out at us this past June — DUH! We’re hoping to launch the system this spring.
Jonathan was recently interviewed by John Haven of BlogTalkRadio regarding online personalities and transparency for an upcoming book. John was referred to FindMeOn while researching ‘online trolls’ as an expert on online identities.
You can read about the interview, and even hear it at the following link:
Long story short, Jonathan made a comment near the end of the interview I think is extremely wise and one we should all cleave to asap: “What people need to do more is think…we’re in an (online) era where instant gratification is the norm.” But (and now I’m paraphrasing his words, and Jon, please correct me in the comment post below if need be), we have to remember our digital footprint survives long after our desire for instant gratification or to make our friends chuckle at something we did over the weekend.
In short, being transparent doesn’t mean being careless.