Social media major Facebook
has received a patent in India for systems and methods providing privacy settings for applications installed in their profiles.
According to the Patents Act, 1970, a mere invention in software is not eligible for patent, but the Patent Office
observed that the amended claim of Facebook
showed the necessary physical interactions among the hardware components and the invention was patentable.
The specification that the company filed with the Patent Office
explains that users may usually install applications which can be accessed through a link pasted to a member’s profile, or through an application installed within the member’s profile. Applications installed within the member profile may comprise profile applications or platform applications. These applications are developed by third-party entities outside the social network, by the social network
or by members of the network.
For instance, a movie-related application provided by an online company that ships movie rentals to its customers may be able to access and incorporate data such as the member's interests, education and hobbies in order to make recommendations. Such information may be displayed to the member and the member, through the privacy settings under the invention, can determine who can access and view the information.
The member might select other members who can view data about the particular information from the application. For example, the member may determine other members who can view the member's most recent movie rentals.
The member may also limit the display of the application on his profile to other members of the social network
designated as his friends.
When the patent application, filed in 2016, came up for hearing on June 28, 2017, the Patent Office
raised various objections, including the method in the first three claims being nothing but an algorithmic method of providing application-based privacy in a social network.
This is not allowable under Section 3(K), which says algorithms are not patentable.
amended its claims and said the method related to third-party applications was available through a privacy summary module, which was a summary of the privacy settings for display.
The assistant controller of patents and designs with the Chennai Patent Office, in an order issued in July, observed that the company had stated that the invention was not just about providing privacy settings, but also provided privacy settings for controlling data that third-party applications could share with other users. It also includes a hardware limitation by providing privacy settings to users at the application level.
The first claim has also been amended to show the necessary physical interactions among the hardware components and thus will not fall under the Section 3(K) and another section of the Indian Patents Act, 1970.
"In view of the written submissions and observations, the outstanding objections raised have been waived. The instant application proceeds for grant as per Section 43(1) of the Patents Act, 1970," the order added.
The social media network major, which owns Facebook, Instagram
among others, has brought in various privacy settings. Facebook
has various options for customised privacy settings for content provided by users, giving them control over who can access the content in their posts.