Can You Patent Happy Hour?

Yes, you can patent happy hour, but it is not what you think. A patent was recently granted for a “virtual happy hour” that offers discounted products on gaming and social networking sites at designated times.

The patent application was filed in January 2007 by technology entrepreneur Bill Lee as an “apparatus for increasing social interaction over an electronic network.” As described by Business Week, the technology would allow companies to market themselves by sponsoring a happy hour deal online. For example, a Las Vegas hotel could sponsor discounts on virtual chips on an online casino website.

Patent 8,180,852 describes the system in greater detail. The system “monitors for a user input requesting initiation of a happy hour, and when the input is detected, modifies the webpages to alert users of the happy hour. The users are notified of which user initiated the happy hour, and are also notified that interaction incentives accumulate at an increased rate during the happy hour. The system also tracks user scorings that accumulate based on the user interaction, and enables certain website features based on these user scorings. The system also tracks ratings for user-uploaded objects and identifies top rated objects for displaying on webpages viewable by other users.”

Lee also predicts that retailers such as Wal-Mart could also use social networks to advertise happy hours in their stores. “The concept works really well on virtual inventory, but you could see it in the offline setting, too,” Lee says. “People might get a note on Twitter saying certain items at Wal-Mart are available at a 50 percent discount thanks to company X that sponsored the happy hour.”

Cheers to protecting an innovative spin on an age-old tradition.

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