Six Degrees patent

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The Six Degrees patent,[1] United States patent #6,175,831, "Method and apparatus for constructing a networking database and system", granted to Andrew Weinreich et al., has been considered the definitive patent covering social networking by the owners of and LinkedIn.[2] The patent defined a social network as the ability to see the people you do not know through the people you do know, made possible by indexing people's relationships in a single database.[3] The patent was sold along with SixDegrees to YouthStream Media Networks in 2000 and later to Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Mark Pincus of Zynga and for $700,000 at an auction in 2003.[4] [5] [6] When explaining his reasoning for purchasing the Six Degrees patent, Hoffman stated, "Right now you're hearing a lot of spurious patent threats (...) And that's why I moved quickly to get a patent that was foundational."[7] He also commented on other entrepreneurs' views of social networking: "The general attitude among entrepreneurial people is that they think that they were first and that there is no history to what they are doing (...) Both Mark and I had tracked six degrees as an intellectual precursor to our own businesses."[2] Andrew Katz of Fox Rothschild, specialist in Internet intellectual property, said of Hoffman's and Pincus' acquisition of the patent: "It should be taken very seriously by everybody in the industry because it is in the hands of people who have the means and the business acumen to enforce it properly."[2]


  1. ^ US patent US6175831, Andrew P. Weinreich, "Method and apparatus for constructing a networking database and system", published 2001-01-16, issued 2001-01-16 
  2. ^ a b c Riordan, Teresa (2003-12-01). "Idea for Online Networking Brings Two Entrepreneurs Together". 
  3. ^ "United States Patent 6,175,831". 2001-01-16. 
  4. ^ Festa, Paul (2003-11-11). "Investors Snub Friendster in Patent Grab". 
  5. ^ McGrew, Scott (2012-04-01). "Who Owns Facebook's Most Important Patent? Not Facebook.". 
  6. ^ Gannes, Liz (2012-02-09). "Who’s Ready for the (Heaven Forbid) Social Networking Patent Wars?". 
  7. ^ Festa, Paul (2003-11-11). "Investors Snub Friendster in Patent Grab".