Did WHERE Patent Just Fence In Competition?

Yeah, I have a patent. But mine’s not even close to being as cool as this one from WHERE Inc. – assuming it holds up under claims of prior art and all that.

Patent number  7,848,765 is all about geofencing — a virtual geographic radius that, when breached by a person with a device (or even without the person I suppose) some predetermined action occurs on the device, such as an advertisement being fired off. And geofencing, for the time being, is at the heart of many existing and planned applications. So it raises more than a few eyebrows that WHERE Inc. has landed (after a five-year wait) such a broad patent.

WHERE’s CEO Walt Doyle took a bold position saying, “Mobile commerce is driven by proximity.  Geofencing is the most effective method of location targeting and is paramount in creating relevancy in location-based advertising. Consequently, the award of this patent combined with our core technology, places WHERE in an industry leading position and furthers the distance between our competitors and us.”

About Patent No. 7,848,765

The patent relates to a method of providing a location-based service, comprising: providing a user interface that enables a user of a portable electronic device to define a geofence at a user-selected distance about a user-selected location, the geofence graphically indicated by an outline on a map displayed in the user interface; determining a current location of the portable electronic device using a location facility of theportable electronic device; passing the current location to an application server that monitors the current location of the portable electronic devicewith respect to the geofence; and in response to the application server determining that the current location of the portable electronic device is within the geofence, transmitting instructions to the portable electronic device to cause said device to offer a service to the user that is not offered when the user is external to the geofence.

Note that the patent states “enables a user… to define.” Remains to be seen if that does not cover geofences automatically provided by application or inferred by devices.

But wait there’s more! According to WHERE:

Among other methods and systems, the patent also covers:

–       wherein the geofence is associated with a moving location that is associated with a portable electronic device.

–       wherein the portable electronic device is a mobile phone, and the service offered to the user when within the geofence is differing pricing for telephone calls than when external to the geofence.

–       wherein the service offered to the user when within the geofence is availability of a coupon.

–       wherein the portable electronic device is capable of data communications, and the service offered to the user when within the geofence is differing pricing for transmission or receipt of data than when external to the geofence.

I’ll update if / when I have comments from those who might run afoul of the patent.

This post originally appeared on Locl.ly.