What are one-way public relationships?
Microsoft tries to patent liking something!
MicroSoft is big and rich mainly by winning patents on ideas that others already had. Now they want to own the “like” button at all websites. Is that a bit over the top? This 2011 article is from Tech Flash, Seattle’s technology news source, their MicroSoft blog, Jan 6.
by Todd BishopIn a filing made public today, Microsoft is seeking a patent for something it calls "One-Way Public Relationships" in social networks and other online properties.
Even though you've probably never heard or used that phrase, chances are you're involved in many of these types of relationships already. That's because it's more commonly known as being a "fan" of something online.
Here's an excerpt from the abstract.
In an implementation, a control is exposed that is operable to become a fan of an object within a social networking page. Responsive to operation of the control, data may be stored to establish a one-way public relationship between a user and the selected object. By establishing a one-way public relationship rather than a mutual friend relationship, the object and/or a corresponding owner of the object is not included in the user's social network and is not provided access to the user's profile, status, or other personal information. The one-way public relationship may be employed by a service provider to serve content related to the object to the user. The one-way public relationships may also be employed by the service provider to push status updates regarding the object to "fans" of the object.
Further down, the patent application goes into more detail, citing the example of a fictional user becoming a fan of his favorite band.
When Steve clicks on the "Add" button, a relation module operates to establish a social networking relationship between Steve and "U2". In at least some embodiments, the control is operable by a single-click to establish a one-way public relationship between Steve and "U2". For instance, a one-way public relationship may be established using accounts with the service provider corresponding to Steve and/or "U2". Based on this relationship, Steve may be able to post on "U2's" profile page, and obtain content and/or status updates related to "U2" based on the one-way public relationship. The one-way public relationship may also be employed by the service provider to serve content and/or ads related to "U2" to Steve's account across various services. The one-way public relationship may further be employed by the service provider to push status updates for "U2" to Steve's account. A mutual friend relationship is not established between Steve and "U2" in this instance. Accordingly, "U2" is not provided reciprocal access to Steve's social network and related information and is not added to Steve's contacts.
Unless there's some innovative nuance hidden in the text of the application, it seems like Microsoft could face an uphill climb in its quest for a patent on this one.
The application, made public today, was originally filed in July 2009. Facebook first established its fan pages back in November 2007. The "Like" button has since replaced the "Become a Fan" mechanism, but the basic concept is the same, working essentially as described in the Microsoft patent application.
Microsoft is a partner with and minority investor in Facebook, but the social network isn't named in the patent application.
JJS: Here’s an idea. Want to make a fortune quickly? Why not apply for a patent on applying for a patent?
Each year, big corporations like MicroSoft, Intel, etc, apply for and get literally thousands of patents. Do they then manufacture and sell thousands of ideas? No, the patents are not for creating a new product but for preventing others from creating a new product. How does that contribute to techno-progress?
The fact that MicroSoft and Bill Gates are so rich, and the fact that nobody can work that hard or invest that smart to get that rich, should make you wonder, just how did they accrue so much wealth?
People in on the first wave of a new technology amass amazing fortunes only with the help of the government. Sure, Gates and others would be rich, but the only way to become filthy rich is by the help of the state. In this case, government lets Gates and others erect “No Trespassing” signs on the field of knowledge -- for nearly for free, for no more than a cheap filing fee.
Let’s say issuing patents is a proper function of government. OK, how much should government charge? A basic filing fee, or a fee scaled to the value of the idea somebody gets a monopoly on? Which way would a private company go? Does an insurance company charge a filing fee or an amount geared to the item insured? Does a bank charge a filing fee or an amount proportional to the loan?
If government did grant patents and did so at full market value of the new idea, then it’d no longer be worthwhile for anyone to stockpile them and exclude others from venturing into that particular field of knowledge. Many more inventive people could compete. Technology would both progress and progress would be egalitarian and participatory.
Inventors would still make money, and a lot of money, not by monopolizing ideas but by being first and capturing the biggest market share. Ford, Coca-Cola, and Kleenex are hugely successful not from owning patents but from being original. So inventors would partner up with business people, not with lawyers.
Such patent reform is part of geonomics and shows how we should handle claims to monopolize not just virtual fields but real fields, real sites, real land. That is, let’s levy people for the values they take, not for the values they create. Don’t tax or otherwise block people’s efforts, just charge people “land dues” for excluding others from a part of Earth, something we all have a right to.
At the same time, don’t lavish public revenue and public favors (like patents) upon insiders and special interests. Instead, pay members of society an equitable share, a “Citizens Dividend”, from all the recovered “rents”, that huge stream of spending by people for natural resources and government-granted privilege. Then we’d have rapid techno-progress and all of us could work less, play more, and benefit from progress built on justice.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
Let knowledge enter the commons more quickly?
Is Intellectual Property Always Proper?
Can anyone earn a billion? Do fortunes impoverish others?
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