The Facebook Tagging Patent

Facebook has been awarded a patent for tagging people/things in photos and other digital media. As Inside Facebook reports, it also has a patent on “purchasing a gift in a social network environment.” On top of that:

Facebook also applied for four search-related patents in the last month that control how results are shown to users based on their social proximity to the information or how often they access it.

This brings up a lot of questions.

  • The photo tagging patent refers to “selecting region within the digital media”; does that mean tagging someone in the whole photo/video–not just a certain part of it–falls outside the patent?
  • Is gifting “in a social network environment” really novel or nonobvious enough to deserve a patent?
  • Would Google+1 be affected if Facebook got its social search patent?

I wrote a paper during college on software patents, and I still feel that I–and many others, including some patent officers and judges who settle disputes–don’t fully understand what is being patented. Any comments from those more technically inclined would be appreciated.