Everybody loves happy hour, and soon, the concept might not be limited to the bar scene.  

Peter Grendler, Michael Hedlund, and veteran technology investor Bill Lee were recently granted a patent for virtual happy hours, which could eventually be a way for companies to make money via gaming and social networking sites such as Facebook.

For example, imagine a social site that hosts a poker game. The idea is simple: You, enterprising business owner, could sponsor a virtual chip sale for the players, and any player who took advantage of the offer got an alert that your company sponsored the sale.
“It leads to increased social interaction,” says Lee, who has invested in Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and Yammer, and filed for the patent back in 2007.  “There’s a social phenomenon now where people care about their Twitter followers, they care about how many friends they have on Facebook.”
 Lee says consumers would also benefit from discounted goods and services, while the virtual host or social networking site would get the added benefit of more interaction within their space.

“It’s the perfect triangle,” Lee says.