Snap has reportedly signed a deal worth $7.7 million to get its hands on a patent for geofilters — the localized filters whose sale to advertisers provides the company with a chunk of its revenue. TechCrunch reports that Snap obtained the patent (titled: Methods and systems of providing visual content editing functions) from Mobli, an Instagram rival that launched in 2011.
The patent allows for location-based filters to be created and distributed on the server side, meaning that the app doesn’t have to be updated with each new filter. The sale was orchestrated by Mobli co-founder Moshe Hogeg, TechCrunch says, and confirmed in an email sent to Mobli’s shareholders. Snap’s decision to go through with the purchase was reportedly motivated by the desire to protect itself from any future lawsuits, as geofilters mark one of Snap’s four primary sources of income.
Buying the patent should secure Snap against any legal action from Mobli, certainly, but it could also give the company leverage against competitors — such as Facebook — who may try to incorporate similar features. Facebook has a lengthy track record of borrowing from Snap, adding post timers, facial filters, and clones of Snapchat’s stories feature across its range of products that include Instagram and WhatsApp. It’s succeeding at beating out the incumbent in some cases, too: Instagram Stories are now more popular than Snapchat’s original version.
Most recently , Facebook added geostickers to Instagram, offering location-specific tags that users can paste over images. The feature is only live in two cities at the moment, but could be an indication that Facebook plans to roll out a wider geofilter function in the future to eat more of Snap’s lunch. If that does happen, Snap’s newly acquired patent may give it some legal grounding to bite back.